Bradley Manning is the 23-year-old US Army intelligence analyst who, allegedly lip-syncing to Lady Gaga, downloaded classified documents from US military servers. He now faces charges of distributing government secrets to Wikileaks and is coming up for a preliminary hearing today.
Manning’s public image is that of the marginalized loner, without political motive, who strayed.
Wikileaks argues the whistle-blower “singlehandedly changed hundreds of thousands of people’s lives for the better.”
The challenge will be to run these two stories concurrently: The loner and the whistle-blowing game changer. Manning’s personal PR will need to argue the former, alongside more powerful and influential constituencies arguing for the latter.
The PR verdict: “B plus” for his PR defense strategy so far. Manning’s personal PR already has him portrayed as a non-threatening protagonist. Keep it up
The PR challenge will be to drown out concerns that Manning endangered lives by breaking national security. Manning’s team needs to characterize this as a David and Goliath battle and then use third parties to champion his unwitting contribution to freedom of information and transparency. Mention Lady Gaga as often as possible. It indicates to the public, in a sound bite, Manning is young, over his head and without sinister motive.
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