By Barak Ravid for Haaretz.com
The Foreign Minister is planning to initiate a new public relations campaign in a number of European capitals early next year. The campaign, which will make extensive use of professional advocacy and public relations experts by Israeli embassies in Europe, aims to also use as many as a thousand people in each country, who will be willing to volunteer to spread Israel's message.
A week ago, the embassies of Israel in London, Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Paris, The Hague, Oslo, and Copenhagen were informed about the basic principles of the new public relations plan.
"It was decided to give public relations emphasis in the countries you are serving," Naor Gilon, who heads the Western Europe division at the ministry, wrote the envoys.
"The Foreign Minister is very interested in this campaign and intends to meet with you on the issue at a meeting of ambassadors," the message wrote, referring to a meeting that is scheduled to take place next month.
The Foreign Ministry is putting its money on the gambit too, doubling the public relations budgets of the embassies in the nine capitals in Europe for next year.
Each ambassador was instructed to prepare, by January 16, a list of at least 1,000 "allies" who will be routinely briefed by the embassy for advocacy and public relations. These "allies" will have to be willing to take action on behalf of Israel, through support demonstrations and rallies, in publishing articles in the press, etc.
Among the types of persons that will be sought to assist in the campaign will be members of the local Jewish community, activists in Christian organizations, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, academics and activists in student organizations.
The novelty of this campaign is that it will not rely on the work only of Israeli diplomats and volunteer supporters, but on professional lobbying and public relations companies hired by the embassies.
The instructions from the Foreign Ministry to the embassies is that the firms not be "advertising firms but companies that will assist the embassy in its work vis-a-vis influential elements."
The professional lobbyists and PR agents will be provided with materials from the embassies, and which will be produced by a special team at the Foreign Ministry.
The Foreign Ministry team will produce three types of materials: political messages, in which Israel's positions on the peace process, the settlements, etc. will be encapsulated; "branding" messages which will position Israel in specific areas of activity, such as technology, economy, tourism, etc.; and messages about problematic developments in the Middle East which are not directly related to Israel, such as human rights in Iran or Syria, Hezbollah's take over in Lebanon, etc.
The ministry has also instructed the ambassadors in those nine capitals to focus their activities on organizing groups of influential persons from those countries to visit Israel.
The ambassadors were also instructed to hold, at least once a month, a high profile public event.
The public relations campaign will be evaluated in two surveys that the ambassadors were instructed to carry out during 2011, and reports every three months on the work of the "allies."