It has been reported that the New York-based Big Duck PR agency declined to work with the North American and Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute because the of its presence in Israel and its objection to working with an institution that opposes the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement.
Without getting into the fact that BDS is a movement that seeks to delegitimize Israel’s very existence, and that many progressive Jews misbelieve that BDS is somehow reasonable as a non-violent way to act against what they think is best for Israel and the Palestinians vis-à-vis the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, this incident highlights a tangential and unfortunate professional situation for many.
I speak for myself and many colleagues in Israel who are dismayed that some Israeli organizations, some quite large, feel they need to work with American PR agencies to garner media coverage they need in order to enhance their organization’s image abroad, raise funds and participate in conversations concerning Israel, the Diaspora and the region.
PR professionals in Israel, especially the ones who made aliyah (like me), are uniquely qualified to get out the right messages about Israeli organizations. They, more than anyone, understand the issues from a local and international perspective as they live it on a daily basis, and they have a keen understanding of the audience they need to reach.
We know, because that’s our job, that stories about Israeli organizations, their leaders, their issues and the content which they wish to share are almost always going to come out of Israel. We know the local and international journalists and editors here, and we also know who is covering Israel/Diaspora/Mideast issues abroad.
Particularly these days, when almost all journalists work from home, communication with the right person, and success, if the story is compelling and timely, can indeed come from almost anywhere.
And so, one would think that these locally based organizations, some of them quite large and sometimes even Israeli government offices, Zionist to their core, would work especially hard to engage with and support those communications professionals who made the decision to live in Israel. And yet, this is unfortunately not the case.
If any Israeli group or institution thinks they can’t find the right PR agency or communications consultant to work with here, they are not looking hard enough or have the old mistaken impression that if the work comes from outside, it must be better. Trust me, there are people here in Israel with the knowledge, language skills, contacts and media savvy, who can help tell the stories they need to thrive.
Laura Kam is the president of Kam Global Strategies, a Jerusalem-based strategic communications agency.