Intelligent PR is never propaganda.

Communicators spend a lot of time working on getting the message right. To an extent that is a good thing. For in the day-to-day of organizational life, the message can sometimes get lost in the weeds. It is important to align and focus everyone, from leaders on down, on communicating what matters most.


When it comes to the brand, there is nothing more important than communication. “Build it and they will come” is bogus. You’ve got to say the right thing, at the right time, just to build buzz. And then protect your buzz from a blooper caught on Facebook that can bring you down. Caution is natural, necessary and appropriate.


But despite all this, regardless of the benefits of coordinated messaging, most brands don’t know how to use a brand playbook well. They either follow it too religiously (“Have I provided you excellent customer service today?”); implement it incorrectly (“Qwikster”); or ignore it altogether and just make things up as they go along (Sears).


Branding is confusing to a lot of people. But when it comes to brand communication, only one rule, if broken, can destroy you: Never, never peddle propaganda. You can openly:


* sell a fantasy (Ralph Lauren, Porsche)


* create community (Facebook, Harley-Davidson)


* offer some objective functional advantage (OXO, Dyson, Wal-Mart)


But you can never, ever lie or mislead or manipulate to make your case. And that is where too many brand leaders eventually fall into a trap made of their own success. They start to think that if they say enough things that other people want to hear, they will generate positive news coverage, and this will render them successful.


The road to propaganda is paved with public opinion polls. If the leader is strong enough to resist them initially, eventually it gets harder and harder to do so.


I believe that leaders are made more than they are born. That somewhere along the path of painful life, they make a discovery of their inner North Star – and of the compass G-d gave them to find it.


The leadership capacity gets them to a point, which is positive. Yet when they reach a certain level of leadership success, paradoxically, they begin to get insulated from the compass. They get swamped with advisers, briefings, talking points, media coaches, teleprompters, photo shoots, wardrobe consultants. They start attending executive seminars where all they see are other executives. They live by “minute-by-minute” schedules where every interaction is scripted.


When you spend so much time overthinking your every word, you stop being yourself. The self that your audience wants. The self that they are paying money for. The brand that they have invested in.


I was reminded of this today when I watched the President addressing the United Nations General Assembly. (Full disclosure and disclaimer: I work for the government but all opinions are my own. Additionally, this is a blog about communication principles and not a political commentary or endorsement.)


As I watched the President speak, I knew that I was watching an expression of authenticity. It was the President on his way toward the North Star.


Was it a coincidence that he used words relating to honesty quite a bit, as he stressed America’s commitment to “a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine”?


“Let’s be honest with ourselves….a small country of less than eight million people (Israel) look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off the map. The Jewish people carry…fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. Israel deserves recognition….and friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth.”


There it was. As they say, fair and balanced. And when the President spoke his own truth, I found that I trusted what he was saying, and I wanted to watch more.


In the end, the President of the United States is not only the Commander in Chief. He or she is also the Chief Communicator. And we look to them to communicate American values of fairness, freedom, democracy and the right to self-defense when necessary. Before the entire world when called for.


When I watched that clip I sat back in my chair, speechless. On every level – as an American, as a Jew, as a humanist who really and truly wants peace. As a communicator, too. Because the President today reinforced what is for me the cardinal principal of public relations, a principle I know to be real and true:


Intelligent PR is never propaganda. 

Patagonia's smart branding: "Stop buying me new"


Talk about being true to your brand values.

According to a September 13 blog post by SageAdvice, Patagonia is now encouraging its customers to buy items used - not new - through its eBay storefront.

Of course, eBay is all excited about the concept of retail brands selling things through its online storefront.

But what marketers are excited about is the concept of a brand that is so true to its values, that it will actually do things that will almost certainly reduce its bottom line.

I remember debating other brand consultants about - could the company survive while featuring other vendors selling exactly the same stuff for less? Answer: YES! Because in the end, the only one you trust is Amazon.

In a similar way, I do think that Patagonia will succeed with this move, both in terms of its reputation (mission-action alignment) and in terms of the perceived quality of its product - "so good that I'd even buy it used."

Learn more about the Patagonia-eBay partnership and the Common Threads Initiative that powers it. Brilliant branding for a brighter future.

Truth vs. Propaganda, Part 2: A Brief Selection of Quotes

Below is a follow-up to yesterday's post regarding the upcoming visits of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nations.

With deep respect for all peoples and an equally strong desire for peace.

- Dannielle Blumenthal


True Islam Preaches Coexistence

“God wanted to give Abraham a double blessing, through Ishmael and through Isaac, and ordered that Ishmael's descendents should live in the desert of Arabia and Isaac's in Canaan. The Qur'an recognizes the Land of Israel as the heritage of the Jews and it explains that, before the Last Judgment, Jews will return to dwell there. This prophecy has already been fulfilled.”

"Both the Jewish and Islamic Scriptures teach that God, through His chosen servant Moses, decided to free the offspring of Jacob from slavery in Egypt and to constitute them as heirs of the Promised Land. Whoever claims that Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is something new and rooted in human politics denies divine revelation and divine prophecy as explicitly expressed in our Holy Books (the Bible and Qur'an)."

"The Qur'an relates the words by which Moses ordered the Israelites to conquer the Land:"
"And [remember] when Moses said to his people: 'O my people, call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.'" [Qur'an 5:20-21]

- Maulana Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi Head Imam of Italy, “Tell the Children The Truth”

Propaganda as a Palestinian Political Tool

“Do not pay attention to what I say to the media, the television or public appearances. Pay attention only to the written instructions that you receive from me." - Yasser Arafat, addressing his people at a public event, July 2001

"I am ready to kill for the sake of my cause; wouldn't I lie for it?" - Yasser Arafat

Anti-Semitism and the Palestinian Cause

“The meaning of Arab unity is the liquidation of Israel.” - Egyptian Prime Minister Nasser, 1965

"I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!” - Radio broadcast to Palestinians by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, on Israel’s independence in 1948

"Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Americans who are like them."
- Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, member of the Palestinian Fatwa Council

Jewish People Did Not Steal The Land of Israel

“In most cases the lands were acquired (without force)” - 1937 testimony by Haj-amin al Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, regarding the purchase of land in Israel by the Jewish people, without force - here

“Nazareth is forlorn .... Jericho the accursed lies a moldering ruin today, even as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago: Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Savior's presence.” - Mark Twain, “The Innocents Abroad,” (upon visiting Israel in 1867), cited in Katz

“In the twelve and a half centuries between the Arab conquest in the seventh century and the beginnings of the Jewish return in the 1880's, Palestine was laid waste. Its ancient canal and irrigation systems were destroyed and the wondrous fertility of which the Bible spoke vanished into desert and desolation.” - Carl Hermann Voss, "The Palestine Problem Today, Israel and Its Neighbors" (Boston, 1953), p. 13, cited by Katz

The Political Purpose of Keeping Palestinians as Refugees

"Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees... while it is we who made them leave.... We brought disaster upon ... Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave.... We have rendered them dispossessed.... We have accustomed them to begging.... We have participated in lowering their moral and social level.... Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon ... men, women and children--all this in the service of political purposes...."
- Khaled Al-Azm, Syria's Prime Minister after the 1948 war

“The masses of the Palestinian people are only the advance-guard of the Arab nation … a plan for rousing world opinion in stages, as it would not be able to understand or accept a war by a hundred million Arabs against a small state.’” - El Muswar (Egyptian Journal), December 1968, cited here

“In general, one can say that Arab governments regarded the destruction of the State of Israel as a more pressing matter than the welfare of the Palestinian refugees. Palestinian bitterness and anger had to be kept alive. … this could best be done by ensuring that a great many Palestinians Arabs continued to live under sub-normal conditions, the victims of hunger and poverty." - Terence Prittie and Bernard Dineen. The Double Exodus: A Study of Arab and Jewish Refugees in the Middle East. S.l: s.n, 1974, cited here

"The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die. - Ralph Galloway, former director in Jordan of U.N. Aid to the Palestinians, quoted here and here

“Israeli refusal to take back the refugees, leaving them in misery, would turn world opinion and perhaps western governments against the Jewish state on humanitarian grounds. Israeli agreement to take back all or many of the refugees would result in the political and demographic destabilization of the Jewish state, with clear military implications. All of Israel’s leaders appreciated this: The refugees had become a ‘political weapon against the Jews’.” - Benny Morris, the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited

"There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity....The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel." - Zuheir Muhsin, late Military Department head of the PLO and member of its Executive Council (Dutch daily Trouw, March 1977)

"Since 1948 Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner.... they have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, even criminal."
- King Hussein of Jordan, 1960

"Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands. Israel represents one-tenth of one percent of the landmass. But that's too much for the Arabs.....No matter how many land concessions the Israelis make, it will never be enough." - from "Myths of the Middle East", Joseph Farah, Arab-American editor and journalist, WorldNetDaily.Com, 11 October 2000

"After the Palestinian state wins recognition from most of the nations of the world, as expected, the Israeli presence on Palestinian lands will become illegal and we will fight this with weapons.."
- Farouk Radoumi, head of the PLO's diplomatic desk, in PA newspaper, AL HAYAT AL-JADEEDA, October 15, l998

Propaganda Peace Leads to a Terrorist State


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is headed to the United Nations this week to request full U.N. membership for the Palestinian people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking too. Both are supposed to address the U.N. General Assembly on September 23.

The move by Mr. Abbas is being portrayed as the work of a “frustrated” statesman selflessly trying to care for his people in the face of a powerful colonizer that refuses to give any ground - literally. It is natural to sympathize with a victim and Mr. Abbas is playing directly to this human tendency.

The speech does carry one small risk. The world might find out the truth about the Palestinians’ desire to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. People may start to objectively examine the countless acts of terrorism, historical and recent, that have been carried out by them and “on their behalf.” And then it might make more sense why Israel does things like physically defend its land, its people, and its right to exist. Because as much as people sympathize with a victim, they also understand that no normal country will willingly commit suicide.

In his presentation to the U.N., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to rely on a fact-based communication strategy. In his words, “To have peace we must have mutual respect - we cannot build peace on a foundation of lies.”

As I interpret it these are the two key facts at work:

· Fact #1: The Palestinians and the Israelis do not currently have mutual respect because while Israel can live side-by-side with a peaceful Palestinian state, the reverse is not true. In the words of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, August 28, 2011: Don't order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won't accept it." Palestinian representative Maen Rashid Areikat adds that the new Palestinian state will be Jew-free (Or, in the words of the Nazis, “Judenrein”). How is that two-state solution going to work when the Palestinians don’t recognize Israel, and there will be no Jews in Palestine?

· Fact #2: The Palestinians and their supporters regularly use disinformation to build ideological support for the eventual physical destruction of Israel. Palestinian maps of Israel regularly omit Israel. The lies that are told about Israel are so numerous that entire websites are devoted to this subject. Here is one summary of some of the lies; I am not going to repeat the propaganda itself.

The great lie of the Palestinian cause is that it is about the Palestinians. It is not.

The truth is that the Palestinians are being used as human torpedoes. Their suffering is real, without question. They deserve recognition as a people. They have the right to determine their fate. Just like the Jewish people do. Just like America. Just like every other nation on earth.

But if Palestinian leaders and those who care for them truly wished to achieve all this, it would have been done ages ago. If they believed in the principle of mutual respect for other nations, including the Jewish state and the Jewish people, we would not have an issue right now.

The fact of the matter is, the so-called Palestinian cause is a convenient mask for a completely different cause: Jew-hatred. You can’t say that out loud because it sounds impolite. Plus, it requires a justification to make its extreme ends palatable, desirable, urgent.

The true cause underlying the Palestinian cause slipped out of the Palestinian leader’s mouth this week: The dream of a Jew-free Palestine, Israel, world. “Well, I personally still believe that as a first step we need to be totally separated, and we can contemplate these issues in the future.”

Again, to quote Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Any peace that is built on a foundation of lies ultimately collapses on the rocks of truth.”

The truth is that the so-called peace process has been fictional, for the Palestinians, all along. The Israelis, because they desperately want to survive, keep chasing the dream. Meanwhile, their “peace partners” are fully in the grip of the “Gaza Syndrome,” a “the pathological culture that celebrates brutal, wanton death.

It is the Gaza Syndrome that produced Hakim and Amjad Awad, the teenage killers who stabbed (warning: graphic) much of the Fogel family to death on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, March 11, 2011. In court, Hakim Awad smiled and gave a “V for Victory” sign as left the courthouse upon his conviction.

Of course he did. Hakim after all had the support of his family and community: “Both men (both killers) are affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) terror group and received significant assistance from family members and friends after the attack.” Oddly to the average Western observer, the response to the attack was quite joyous, with Palestinians happily distributing candy in the streets (see photo).

The official, so-called “moderate” Palestinian leadership didn’t seem all that perturbed either. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was quoted as saying that he “clearly and firmly denounces the terror attack, just as I have denounced crimes against Palestinians.”

In case you didn’t get the full meaning of that statement, Fayyad continues: “We categorically oppose violence and terror, regardless of the identity of the victims or the perpetrators.”

Get it? The strategy is to put Israel – a country defending its right to survive - on the same moral footing as the terrorists – a loosely connected community of killers who want to eradicate Jews, period.

The terrorist group Hamas was more forthright, refusing to condemn the hate crime at all. Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri stated: “We in Hamas completely support the resistance against settlers who murder and use crime and terror against the Palestinian people under the auspices of the Israeli occupation soldiers.”

Note how the haters of Israel use code words as propaganda to engender hatred of Israel.

· “Occupation” is supposed to make you think that Israel is holding the Palestinians hostage.

· “Apartheid state” is supposed to bring to mind racial guilt. To make you think that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians and taking all privilege for themselves – akin to South Africa pre-liberation.

· “Right of return” is an appropriation of Israel providing to Jewish people automatic citizenship in the Jewish homeland of Israel. Of course if all Palestinians return to Israel proper, the entire state will be dismantled.

As you watch the news unfold this week, think about the truth of the situation and sift it from the propaganda.

In the words of Palestinian Mosab Hassan Yousef, author of Son of Hamas:

“I was a prisoner of the Israelis when my eyes were opened to the fact that the Palestinian people were as oppressed by their own leaders as they were by Israel.

“It is my greatest hope that, in telling my own story, I will show my own people – Palestinian followers of Islam who have been used by corrupt regimes for hundreds of years – that the truth can set them free.”

“If I, the son of a terrorist organization dedicated to the extinction of Israel, can reach a point where I not only learned to love the Jewish people but risked my life for them, there is a light of hope.”

- Son of Hamas, p. 249, 247


Image source here

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