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Responding to al-Qaeda’s PR to America September 7, 2006

Posted by The PR Cassandra in Posts.
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As discussed in the previous post, al-Qaeda’s latest PR salvo appeared to be aimed at Americans.  What would be a useful, true and effective PR response?

First of all, we, like them, have multiple audiences to address.  In my humble opinion (IMHO), the US government has not been sufficiently sophisticated in its responses.  Looking at this from a PR challenge perspective, here are some of the issues that I see.

1.  al-Qaeda uses a direct-to viewer approach – its communications do not go through a sceptical and educated press that we (thankfully!) have in the US.

2.  They use religious formulae that position them as pious – our press is generally hostile to fundamentalism in religion and wouldn’t respond well to our government using evangelical Christian terminology (thank goodness!).

3.  They clearly are following our media and blogs – our responses appear to come without any understanding of their world.  (BTW, the $20 million PR contract that the adminsitration has put out for bid for a PR firm to track Arab and Persian press seems like pork and I doubt will be worth tax payer dollars – let our intelligence services hire some savvy PR people to analyze what I hope they are already doing – heck, just get a clipping service, it’s a lot less than $20M!)

4.  Our responses sound like a broken record – they seem to come up with new ways of saying what they’ve said before, which makes it appear new or different, while we seem stuck in platitudes that opinion polls show aren’t working domestically, not to mention having any effect on America’s sinking reputation abroad.

PR cannot fix what isn’t so.  America had the high ground after September 11th, which the war in Iraq and the Israeli incursions into Gaza and Lebanon have sunk.  America is also a secular (thank goodness!) democracy – with a belief in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and not becoming martyrs for God (Allah) – which I say in all seriousness.  (BTW, the Greek word “martyr” known from its use in the New Testament, actually means a “witness.”  Because the early Christians were so terribly persecuted by the Romans, the word for “witness” became associated with suffering or death cause by the demonstration of one’s faith in The Way, or, as it became known, Christianity.)

Next entry, I’ll propose some PR responses that America could make that I believe are both true and would be effective. 

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