Netanyahu’s Graphic Bomb

 Netanyahus Graphic Bomb

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s use of simple props.

A visual aid can help make a PR message easy, but Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming in for some sniping following his presentation to the United Nations last week. His now infamous and widely broadcast graphic cartoon of a bomb, broadcast while delivering his speech to the UN General Assembly, has provoked some confusing reactions – among them, from his home state of Israel, no less.

The graphic made headlines globally, leaving Iranian President Ahmadinejad of Iran cooling his heels. The bomb cartoon was divided into segments; 70 percent and 90 percent, representing the advances Iran is making towards nuclear armament. The red line, drawn by Netanyahu as he was speaking, indicated that by next summer, Iran would be 90 percent complete. Simple enough?

Not so fast! There was some confusion as the Israeli media incorrectly reported the Prime Minister was referring to actual percentages of uranium enrichment. This was BIG news, given the general consensus is that Iran has reached a level of uranium enrichment of only 20 percent. The Israeli press reported that Netanyahu was announcing that enrichment was far more advanced than previously indicated. He seemed to be saying that enrichment is now 70 percent and getting close to 90 percent. Panic buttons were pressed: The threat is more imminent than previously thought. Trouble is, that’s not what Netanyahu was saying.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR problematic) for Netanyahu’s use of simple props. Rather than illustrating a point unequivocally, confusion increased.

The PR Takeaway: Keep your message simple, yes, but avoid confusion. The Israelis stole the show in letting the world know how they saw the Iranian threat. The problem with the cartoon graphic was that its message wasn’t entirely clear and couldn’t stand alone without explanation. Next time, opt for a little more complication and ask the question, Does this make sense without any accompanying words? After all, the point of any simple graphic is to express an idea clearly and eliminate ambiguity, not create it.

What did you think of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s graphic? Give us your PR Verdict!

The New York Times and When Not To Publish

 The New York Times and When Not To Publish

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for The New York Times. (Pictured: Times editor Jill Abramson.)

When does The New York Times decide it won’t publish something on the grounds that it might impinge on national security? It’s a question the paper of record has had to address recently. An angry Congress wants clarification, as do some readers. What to say?

The controversy stems from recent articles published in the NY TImes about President Obama’s “kill list,” as well as the U.S. government’s computer virus warfare against Iran.  Obama’s critics claim the information came directly from the White House in order to bolster the President’s tough image on national security. Obama’s PR says this is dead wrong and that the President is intent on cracking down on staff leaking classified information.

The Times‘s defense? It always consults with government officials prior to publication. The paper confirms that government officials had not asked the paper to spike the two stories in question, and it rejects any suggestion that national security was endangered. “No story about details of government secrets has come near to demonstrably hurting the national security in decades and decades,” is the official quote. Case closed for The New York Times (for the moment).

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for The New York Times, whose response still keeps the decision to publish or not in the realm of a high level of discretion. Something more objective might help the debate.

PR Takeaway: Freedom of speech and public interest rest on a continuum of interest and competing concerns. The Times has chosen to portray the issues as relatively straightforward – dangerous to release, or not? Why not talk about the issue as a long continuum with transparency at one end and secrecy on the other. List and weigh factors that might have a bearing on publication. Think of it as a point system; it will undoubtedly be imperfect, but it would change the debate from a discretion-based decision to something more independent and apolitical.

To read more, click here.

Is The New York Times releasing information that could compromise national security, or exercising the freedom of press? Give us your PR Verdict, below.