Not only do companies need public relations, countries do, too. The reasons why may vary. Some may want to boost tourism, others may need to improve political relationships. The money public relations and lobbying firms can earn with these types of clients is unbelievable. However, it does come with ethical dilemmas. Is $250,000 a month worth helping a country known for mistreating its citizens?
Here are some countries that have invested in the help of K Street:
Libya: Moammar Gadhafi was a strong believer in hiring U.S. public relations companies to help improve his international reputation. Gadhafi would pay influential leaders from all over the world to travel to Libya to create the impression that he was a “thinker and intellectual.” Gadhafi also wanted Libya to be viewed as an intellectual country. He wanted Americans to invest in academic ventures in Libya.
Being a client to a U.S. PR firm cost him $15,000 a month. On top of the base cost was the price of trips for the officials, and the cost to implement the image campaigns costing as much as $3 million a year. The company in charge of these campaigns justified their actions by stating “we are not working for Gadhafi, we are working for Libya.”
Poland: Recently, Poland has been in hot water with its own people as well as international allies. As recently as four days ago, Poland released a job-wanted ad for a public relations company that specializes in global crisis relations. The country is in trouble for reportedly “breaking its own constitution and scaring away foreign investments.”
Poland is desperate to fix friendships that it may have damaged. Poland also needs help on the social media front. Last year the newly elected Law and Justice party took over all public media channels. Polish officials have admitted that they have no idea what to do when it comes to social media and production.
Bahrain: A country widely known for a lax approach to human rights and refusal to acknowledge Israel. However, it wants to be acknowledged as “the new middle east.” Within the last several years, it has looked for help from 10 different U.S. public relations companies. They are attempting to fix their negative association with the September 11th attacks.
One idea Bahrain had in January to fix its reputation was to hold a human rights summit near the Gulf. Actual human rights organizations have checked “no” on their RSVPs as they were skeptical of the sincerity behind the event. Bahrain reportedly paid American PR company Qorvis $40,000 a month, plus expenses. Qorvis previously helped Bahrain’s good friend Saudi Arabia fix its image.
Qatar: Qatar officials enlisted the help of New York City public relations company, Fenton, to create and launch an anti-Israeli campaign. Qatar’s goal was to raise awareness regarding the blockade on the Gaza strip. This created a dilemma for the Fenton group.
Projects like these put companies between a rock and a hard place. When Israel asked Burson Marsteller for help, Marsteller said no. Burson and Marsteller told Israel that if the company were to accept the offer, the amount of bad press it would receive would far outweigh any benefits of taking it on as a client.
Syria: When Syria hired several international public relations companies, it goal was to keep bad press off the airwaves. It wanted to block anything bad while filling available airtime with positive stories. One company responsible for Syria’s public relations vigorously prepared Bashar Al Assad for a Barbara Walters interview. He was well versed in what to say and how to make it sound believable. Meanwhile, innocent Syrian citizens were being massacred in the street. One of these stories made the air, the other did not.
Al Assad’s wife Asma, who is currently under strict European economic sanctions. landed on the cover of Vogue and was described as “glamorous and chic,” an element of a public image campaign funded by the Syrian government. The first two words that come to mind when you ask a Syrian to describe Mrs. al Assad are most likely not glamorous and chic.
It is not uncommon for Middle Eastern countries to hire American lobbying firms to bring a country into the spotlight. Leaders of countries will not think twice about wining and dining a reporter or official in order to assure good press. Leaders of extremist groups are also guilty of bribing journalists with fancy dinners and extravagant trips. Reporters who take these offers can easily be accused of “selling terror and brutality.”
Nigeria: Nigeria is another country with an awful human rights record trying to better its global opinion. Terrorist Group Boko Haram runs rampant throughout Nigeria. In 2014, the rebel group stole 130 schoolgirls in the middle of the night. Most of those girls remain missing. Nigeria signed a $1.2 million contract to better its image. On top of the base cost,are travel expenses which entail $22,500-per-person media trips. Jonathan Genser engaged this contract because he felt his aid was “fighting Boko Haram.”
Nigeria aims to be seen as a trustworthy country. The other part of Nigeria’s goal is to “publicize past, present, and future priority to foster transparency, democracy, and rule of law in Nigeria.” The president of Nigeria has stated that his silence on the issues has been misinterpreted. He intended for his silence to be taken as strength, when it was seen as ignorance.
Egypt: Within the last two years, Egypt’s favorability rating has dropped 18 points. After numerous negative news stories were released,, the country hired U.S. public relations company, Grover Park for $250,000 a month. Egypt was concerned the negative news stories would make America second guess their alliance, which Egypt cannot afford to lose. The U.S. has already stopped contributing to the country militarily.
Grover Park was hired to put Egypt “back in America’s good graces” and provide strategic diplomatic consulting. Previously, Grover Park lent its services to South Korea and Columbia.
The biggest global crisis public relations company in the U.S. is DLA Piper. It coins itself able to assist clients all over the world that have legal struggles. The United Arab Emirates has spent the most on public relations in the U.S. with over a whopping $10,000,000. Second was the UK with over six million dollars spent. Countries that had the most meetings with U.S. Congressman were Turkey, meeting 2,268 times and the Congo, meeting on 1.538 occasions.
A lot can happen in 10 years. Ten years ago email was not popular, texting did not exist, Google and Facebook were not around, and many companies only had one phone number. It is morbid to say, but 9/11 had a serious impact on how we communicate today. Sometimes it takes a significant and traumatic occurrence to spark change.
In the several months following 9/11, all communications norms disappeared. Executives did not feel comfortable calling companies to pitch ideas. Many marketers felt their products or services were meaningless. Out of respect, most business deals came to a halt. For a while, all the news stories being produced focused on one thing, the terrorist attacks.
There was no competition between news stations or hot celebrity gossip. All reporters and broadcasting companies simply wanted to air the unbiased and unfiltered reality of what America had experienced. Once communication returned to normal several months later, it was a completely different world. One huge story changed the way communications and public relations work forever. Here are a few ways the industry has changed:
User-generated media was not common before the September 11th attacks. After the attacks, news outlets begged viewers to send in their self-shot footage of the travesty. Most footage was shot on flip phones. It was powerful for people at home and all over the world to see people’s first-hand accounts of what happened that day. Watching videos filmed by people on the streets experiencing the trauma themselves gave the stories more validity. Stations wanted viewers to be able to feel the energy, hear the sounds, and see the events unfold and the chaos that ensued. It also attempted to feed the viewer’s need for understanding. If it were not for submitted media, we most likely would not have a lot of the footage we have today from September 11th, 2001. Today, more than once a week news stations embed a viewer-submitted video of what is happening. An example is when fights break out on the subway, news stations usually try to incorporate a video shot by someone witnessing the event.
9/11 drove officials to make communications between them and their constituents easier and faster. In the event of something tragic happening again, officials wanted to be able to reach whoever they needed to as quickly and accurately as possible. The best way they found to do this was to begin collecting email addresses. Therefore, emailing became more popular. Now, email is used for a lot more than emergency notifications. Google credits the September 11th attacks for motivating the company to make search result times faster. They, too, wanted people to be able to access vital information in the case of an emergency. Now when an event happens, it is usually trending on social media and then covered on the news. People have faster and easier access to posting and reading the news than ever. Often when the news reports on an incident, more details and confirmed facts are added, compared to what is published online by social media users.
The attacks on the World Trade Center caused foreign affairs and terrorism to be discussed more frequently. In 2016, there is a segment regarding terrorism or foreign affairs every day. A study conducted in 2006 found that since 2001 coverage of foreign affairs has increased 102% and discussions on terrorism have risen 135%. A certain “appetite for news” grew from 9/11. Stories changed from feel good to informative.
More than public relations has changed since the September 11th attacks; lives have been changed, people have been changed, the government, and so much more. Since 2001, the U.S. has added the Department of Defense, the Public Safety Bureau and improved the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Every March people all across America celebrate Women’s History Month. Also joining in the celebrations are the Library of Congress, National Parks Service, and Smithsonian Institution, to name a few.
Women’s History Week was approved by Congress in 1981. Thanks to some friendly protesting by the National Women’s History Project, Congress approved Women’s History Month in 1995.
March is dedicated to Women who have achieved great accomplishments, blazed new trails, and stood up in the face of danger or oppression. In honor of Women’s History Month, let us look at some of the top emerging women in the public relations field:
Sarah Evans: Las Vegas, Nevada
Sarah Evans combined her love of communications with her deep interest in technology. In the last 10 years she has worked with numerous large companies such as PayPal, written a book, started her own company, begun consulting, and given informative speeches. She credits staying up with current trends for making her such a stand-out communications director. Sarah’s biggest tip is to always be ready and phone savvy. You need to be able to create, edit, and post wherever you are. When big news strikes, you have to be able to cover it immediately.
Brooke Hammerling: Greenwich Village, New York
Brooke Hammerling primarily represents technology start-up companies. As this is a new and emerging market, Brooke has been innovative and brave when taking on clients. One of Hammerling’s biggest clients is Skype, a video messaging company. Hammerling does not believe the success of a public relations consultant is based on crafty press releases, but is more strategy driven. She told a reporter: “We make introductions to them that lead to investment, that lead to partnerships, that lead to customer acquisition.”
Lizzie Grubman: New York, New York
Grubman’s specialty is the entertainment industry. Grubman is also a public relations expert/ correspondent for the O’Reilly Factor. Some of her biggest clients include Jay-Z and the Backstreet Boys. She claims it only took her four days to make Jay-Z a star. You know Grubman is a big name in the public relations field and entertainment industry when in 2005 she had her own reality show on MTV.
Recently, there has been a lot of curiosity about why the public relations field is primarily women. Women make up almost 85% of the public relations workforce. However, a man is always at the top. It is not unusual for a man to be the executive of a public relations company with an entirely female staff.
One theory as to why there are more women is because they never felt comfortable in other fields. One woman said, “No one encouraged me to do STEM, so I did liberal arts.” Another theory is that men are more interested in the action-packed and exciting world of journalism. Lastly, one writer believes there are five reasons as to why women flood the public relations field: women are better and more active listeners than men; they are more social; they have better multitasking capabilities which allow them to be more informed on current events; they thrive in groups; and, they focus on the big picture.
Last month, an innovator in the public relations field passed away. Jack Lindquist graduated from the University of Southern California with a business degree, and from there went on to create entirely new ways of advertising.
He began his professional career at a small advertising company promoting washers and dryers. Eventually he would earn the title of first president of Disneyland. Other positions he held included advertising manager, director of marketing, and vice president of entertainment. He has worked at Disneyland California, Disney World Orlando, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.
Just like anyone or anything else associated with Disney, Lindquist was a leader in his field who was responsible for creating ingenious ways of doing things. Here are some of the marketing tools we have Jack Lindquist to thank for:
Disney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations: To promote Disney’s New Year’s Eve events, Jack brought about the idea of giving customers the ability to pre-purchase tickets. This technique had never been used before in the industry. The motive behind implementing this strategy was to sell more tickets. To sell more tickets, Lindquist promoted ticket sales at nearby stores. This allowed customers to avoid long lines the day of events and to make convenient purchases, as they attend their local stores regularly. When this technique was first tested the goal was to sell 6,000 tickets total to cover production costs; 8,500 were sold. Concerts, sports events, and the theatre all use this special selling today.
Grad Night: Jack Lindquist noticed that around graduation time the number of student fatalities rise. The increase in accidents was related to careless celebrations students would take part in after graduating. Jack Lindquist noticed this correlation and decided he had to do something about it. He met with local PTA groups and came up with the plan for Disney Grad Nights. On these special nights graduates would dress in their best and have all the parks completely to themselves to throw one last hoorah. Between 1961 and 2012, five million students celebrated their graduations at the park. Today, almost all of the big amusement park companies have their own version of Disney’s Grad Night.
Anniversary celebrations: Millions of people travel each year to Disney parks and resorts to celebrate various life events. When you enter the parks, there is always a display of buttons such as “just engaged,” “it’s my birthday,” “celebrating my wedding anniversary,” and “it’s my first trip” buttons to take if they apply to your visit. In addition, Disney has anniversaries of its own that it would like to celebrate with customers. Inspiration for this idea hit Jack in anticipation of the 1984 Olympics. Jack took the excitement from the games and funneled it into Disneyland’s 30th anniversary. Not even married couples put a lot of effort into 30th anniversaries, so it was going to be a challenge to sell tickets. To entice customers, Lindquist used the appeal of giveaways. For these giveaways Lindquist set up partnerships with major companies such as General Motors. Also, upcoming Disney offerings, such as upcoming ride openings, were advertised during the anniversary specials. During the 30th year of operation, three million more people visited the park compared to the years before and after.
Commercial plugs: After the Super Bowl, everyone waits for the winning team’s quarterback to say, “I’m going to Disney World.” This is thanks to Jack Lindquist. Other forms of plugs related to Jack Lindquist are product placement, and sponsored displays.
Disney Dollars: Disney Dollars are a form of currency available for purchase and consumption only while on Disney property. This eased transactions for international visitors while they were enjoying the parks. The Disney Dollars range in value, mimicking the U.S. dollar. However, instead of displaying Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin, the familiar faces of Mickey Mouse and Goofy are shown.
Disneyland Ambassador Program: A Disney Ambassador is a current Disney employee who attends big events such as movie releases or ride unveilings and has been referred to as “the tour guide to end all tour guides.” They are chosen after rigorous interview processes and serve one-year terms. It is an extreme honor to be chosen for this position. If there is a new event, attraction, movie, or parade, the ambassador is in charge of being the face of Disney and stresses the magnificence of the opening.
Mr. Lindquist made amusement advertising what it is today. Even though Jack is gone, many amusement parks and other various forms of business to this day use techniques he innovated. In Disneyland and Disney World, Jack is forever immortalized through memorial nods to him in the parks. For example on one of the facades lining Main Street, a window reads, “J.B. Lindquist, Honorary Mayor of Disneyland.”