Call Syrian President Bashar-Al-Assad what you will – and he is being described by many names these days – and add another to the list: master of public relations. Remember the days before war broke out in Syria? A fawning feature in Vogue celebrated Mrs. Assad and her presidential mate as the Middle East’s glamorous, modernizing couple. Such was the range and power of their PR machine.
By the time the Vogue article hit the stands, Syria was burning, and Assad was being called, at best, a dictator. The news has only gotten worse over time, coming to a head when US President Barack Obama threatened air strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons against its people.
In the ensuing debate, as pundits interviewed members of Congress on their voting intentions, one voice was quiet: that of Assad himself. Until he made himself available to American TV journalist Charlie Rose, that is.
In the interview, the man many are calling a monster was calm, not defensive. Bankers responsible for financial crimes have sweat far more than Assad, a man accused of mass murder. He followed up that calm show with an announcement: that Syria would agree to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile – if the US backed down from a strike.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for President Bashar-Al-Assad. An albeit reluctantly high grade for a dictator using his PR machine to play chess with the world.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Image need rehab? Appear cooperative. Whether one believes Assad or not, he has pounced at the right moment. The media reports that Americans are sympathetic to the Syrian people, yet fearful of involvement in yet another Middle Eastern war. Congress is at odds as to what to do. And suddenly, Assad the Impaler comes into our living rooms as Assad the Reasonable Cooperator. Timing is everything, and in the midst of a fray, heads will turn toward the calm voice of reason – no matter the source.