Public relations must rank higher on the list of national priorities.The now infamous poll that was published this month showed that a majority of Europeans think that Israel poses the greatest danger to world peace than any other nation.
Why do they believe this?
The budget of a diaper manufacturer who advertises in Israel totaled, over the past two years, more than $22 million.
The advertising and public relations budgeted for the State of Israel for the entire world over the past two years was $6 million.
The result: Israelis understand a great deal about the absorption powers of a particular brand of diaper, and Europeans believe that we are the country that most endangers world peace.
This is frustrating, because anyone who knows the slightest bit about marketing knows that money can influence public opinion – not because you are paying people off, but because of the fact that when you can conduct in-depth polling and surveys in order to know what your strong points and your weak points are, you can adjust your message accordingly.
Without information, we are shooting in the dark.
Currently, the Israeli embassies in Europe have no budget with which to hire public relations experts and to seriously work to influence public opinion in the countries in which they are based. They barely are allotted the budget for one or two employees within the embassy, who then try to offer information to an entire country. Even PR and advertising professionals – the best and most skilled in the world – aren’t capable of changing public opinion in any significant way in a hostile country without the budget and resources to employ many other professionals like themselves and create an effective team.
How can Israeli positions possibly be understood by the French public, if there aren’t at least ten professionals working every day, using surveys and other measurement tools to work to improve Israel’s image?
And remember, the success or failure of the campaign of a diaper manufacturer will always stay safely in the economic or consumer pages of the newspaper, whereas the slightest miscalculation in Israel’s public relations war is splashed as the top story on television news broadcasts and on the front pages of newspapers around the world.
The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry have been at odds for many years as to who should manage Israeli public relations abroad.
The result: terrible damage which means that it is likely in the near future, that we will be unable to purchase arms in Europe. We can’t for example, acquire submarines from Germany, because this attempt will likely be blocked by the German parliament or other European parliaments that have to approve budgets.
There are those who will say that the Europeans are simply anti-semites, that they hate us and always will. This passive claim doesn’t explain the fact that ten years ago, they liked us better than they do now.
Today, they hate us – because there is no Israeli public relations effort in Europe.
True, there are many fine and worthy activities conducted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but these activities essentially focus on the relationship between Israel and the political regimes ruling the countries, and do not sufficiently emphasize – due to budget constraints – public opinion in Europe.
In order to act there is a need for millions of dollars more to be spent annually. There is no person in the public relations establishment who openly opposes the required sums of money (still far less than the budget of the diaper companies) in order to build a foundation for appropriate PR efforts.
Still, no one is doing anything, and the budgets are not being allotted and there is no international tender to search for the best company to conduct public relations for Israel. When there is no activity, there are consequences.
Public relations expenditure is not designed in order to make Israeli tourists feel better when they go on vacation. This is a national security expenditure, an expenditure for which it has come time to rank high on the list of national priorities.
After all, what is not dealt with today may be impossible to take care of tomorrow.