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Business: Arabs just don’t understand marketing and PR
By Ray Hanania
As I manage the news website The Arab Daily News (www.TheArabDailyNews.com) I noticed one very important thing.
Arabs in general don’t know the power of public relations, communications or marketing.
How do I know that? It’s obvious. I can analyze the advertising purchased by pro-Israel groups on Google and also press releases distributed by pro-Israel groups on the major PR news wire (PR News Wire, Business Wire, Market Wired, etc., to name only a few).
As a part of The Arab Daily News website layout, we have placed Google Advertising which are advertising purchased to promote issues, events and organizations. Google uses a complex algorithm that “reads” the interests of visitors to a web site, and also analyzes the content on a web site. It then selects the advertising that most relates to those interests to display on the website based on the advertising that clients have purchased.
The Arab Daily News is focused on American Arabs, Muslims, and the Middle East so advertising that is related in anyway to those topics should end up appearing in many of the six different locations on the website that display Google advertising.
When you click the ads, the website gets a small commission and the advertiser pays Google a fee. But the real power isn’t the small profits from the Ads. It is in the strategy differences between how Israelis communicate and how Arabs do not.
The fact is that more than 50 percent of the Google Ads related to the Middle East are purchased and placed by pro-Israel clients. The Ads range from politics to tourism. Some Ads promote Israel’s agenda as it relates to Palestine and the Arab World, while other Ads target Jews seeking to convince them to immigrate to Israel.
The second measure that helps me conclude that Arabs do very little advertising is the presence or absence of press releases on the major top wire and news services. Clearly, pro-Israel groups produce far more press releases than most of the Arab organizations in the Middle East or in the United States.
These press releases are available for anyone to view on the news wires. They usually consist of 400 to 600 words of copy that advocate, similarly to the Google advertising campaigns, pro-Israel agendas. These press releases often become the origins of news stories that are then published in the major news media.
Occasionally, I will find a press release from an American Arab or Muslim organization. It’s very rare. Sometimes press releases are distributed by the Arab World businesses to promote one of their products, usually the airline or food industry. Arab governments rarely put out any press releases. None from the Arab Embassies. Very few from the many organizations. The absence of press releases reflects the absence of the Arab viewpoint in the mainstream news media.
By far, pro-Israel press releases dominate the news wire. I would estimate that Israel, one country, puts out 25 times more releases than all of the 22 Arab countries and all of the Arab organizations in the United States and the West combined.
That means that for every 25 press releases put out championing Israel, there is one that is distributed by an Arab source either in the Middle East or in the West. That is phenomenal and a statement in and of itself.
That’s why so many Americans gullibly believe the Israeli narrative that so distorts the facts and the reality of the Middle East conflict and the history of Palestine. And that’s why so many Americans have no idea what the Arab narrative is at all.
It’s not just about money, because the Arab World has far more money than Israel. American Arabs are as wealthy or even more wealthy than American Jews or the pro-Israel community. Though it is clear that Israel’s lobby, AIPAC, can raise tens of millions at fundraisers while Arab organizations can occasionally raise a few hundred thousand.
It’s not enough to have money but it sure would help market the pro-Arab agenda if Arab governments and the Arab organizations and activists spent some of their money on press releases and marketing in the United States. The United States, by the way, is the most important market when it comes to influencing public opinion on the Middle East issues. Even if the entire European World is pro-Arab and challenges Israel, if the United States and American people stand by Israel, Israel will continue to do what it wants.
Besides money, you need professional talent to help you write and distribute the press releases. You can’t just expect to win the English-speaking public over just by speaking English. You have to be able to speak and write in English, of course. And, you also have to understand how to speak “American,” which basically means you need to understand how Americans think before you can expect your words to have influence on them.
You need professionals who understand the Middle East and who also are experts at communications strategies, fundamental training that determines phrases and words, and spin that influence the opinions of the public in the most impactful way.
A well written advertisement can influence more people than a 900 word column or opinion commentary – the Arabs know how to express their opinions, although sadly, not effectively.
Arabs love opinions. And they love to talk. And they especially love to do it for free.
As long as the Arabs put all their efforts into opinions and ignore strategic advertising and marketing, they can continue to expect to behind the “Eight Ball” and be behind Israel.
Israel spends tens of millions of dollars each year in advertising to not only win American public support, but to maintain that support in Israel’s favor. The Arabs spend very little which results in nothing.
A few years back, the Arab League discussed a plan to hire a professional spokesperson. One candidate who was considered was the articulate and savvy Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian woman activist and government official.
But that plan mysteriously fell through. Why? Because unlike Israeli leaders, Arab leaders in government and community activism are insecure. They don’t want to make someone a spokesperson fearing that the spokesperson will suddenly become more popular, or important, than they are. The kings, presidents-for-life and the dictators want to be their own spokespersons. They want the limelight, the microphone and all the attention. And all the power. Even the best , like Jordan’s King Abdullah, is not as good as he could be, though his government does issue a few press releases. Well written, but often very ineffective in reaching the American audience. They mistakenly believe that being in the limelight is the power, but the truth is the power is in the words and the ideas and the creative manner in which those ideas are expressed.
The Israelis understand communications strategy. They understand what message it should send to Arabs and the West by wearing an Arab headdress — how many Arabs would wear a Yarmulka or even meet with an Israeli leader? The Israeli strategy is to appear peaceful, by reaching out to the Arabs. The Arabs reject anything to do with Israel as “normalization,” a negative message about the Arabs that Western audiences recognize right away.
Until the Arab failure to use communication changes, the Arabs can continue to expect that most Americans will not hear their story. Most Americans will support Israel not only blindly but because they honestly believe it is the right thing to do. Why should they reconsider their opinions if the Arab World and American Arab community don’t think it is important to “speak to them” through professional communications and public relations?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, managing editor of the Arab Daily News, and the President and CEO of Urban Strategies Group public relations. You can reach him here or at his website at www.UrbanStrategiesGroup.com.)[subscribe2]
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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