Doug Gamble- Contributor
Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and
in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]
U.S. Media Savvy to Work
An L.A. publicist forms a blue ribbon panel to change
[Doug Gamble] 10/29/03
There's an old Chinese proverb that says a journey of a thousand
miles begins with a single step.
Could it be that a meaningful
first step in bridging the understanding gap between the U.S.
and the Islamic world will be taken in California?
Veteran Los Angeles public relations executive Michael Levine
would like to think so, and he has his foot poised to embark
on the trip.
Levine, whose firm
Levine Communications Office has represented a who's who of
entertainment industry luminaries
over the past
20 years, believes the U.S. must fashion an intellectual response
to terrorism that tries to enlighten those whose passions are
inflamed by hatred of America. "We cannot kill all these
people; we have to change their minds," he says. "Yet
the U.S. is making few converts in the Muslim world."
public relations specialist is forming a blue-ribbon panel, comprised
of 50 prominent thinkers and media and marketing experts,
to craft a report he calls, "America's Message to the World." The
panel's recommendations will be presented to President Bush,
Vice President Cheney and other senior administration officials.
decries the puniness of America's intellectual muscle in the
war on terrorism, insisting the superiority of the U.S.
military must be matched by the genius of this country's marketing
skills. "It is not enough to shut down the terrorist camps," he
says, "we must also stop the jihad factories, the mosques
and the educational institutions that are turning out tens of
thousands of potential terrorists."
It's becoming increasingly
apparent that America's poor, virtually non-existent public relations
efforts are a major impediment
to progress in the Middle East. One has to wonder how a media-savvy
country whose Hollywood dream factory and advertising community
produces movies and ads that influence trends here and abroad,
seems so incapable of getting its message out to the international
It's estimated that public relations efforts aimed
at the Mideast are funded to the tune of about $150 million a
year, but most
of that goes to exchange programs and not to the kind of outreach
and communications offensives that would bolster America's image
in the area.
"America's message to the world must be sold, not unlike
any product," Levine
says. "We're very good at selling Corn Flakes. We just haven't
put any effort into selling America's values, particularly to
the Islamic world." He sees a one-two, military-marketing
punch as essential to protecting the U.S. from terrorism, and
believes that without the latter we are fighting with one hand
tied behind our back.
Deeply committed to
the project, Levine views creation of the blue-ribbon panel
as his most important
work in a career that
has made him a major success in public relations. He says he
does not want "I made so-and-so famous" to be on his
His timing is impeccable, and not just because of the
escalating violence in Baghdad. A diplomatic-advisory group recently
the Bush administration to initiate a dramatic transformation
in the way U.S. public relations programs are coordinated and
communicated in Islamic countries, including creation of a Cabinet-level
office to oversee the efforts. Although some 160 new newspapers,
80 radio and 20 TV stations have sprung to life in post-Saddam
Iraq, these media still are not getting the U.S. story.
press account quoted a senior military official back from Iraq
as saying, "We're losing the information war in
Iraq and we are losing it everywhere. No one seems to have any
solutions." If Levine has his way, some of the answers will
emerge from an initiative created in Los Angeles.
has written for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
and other prominent Republicans.
Copyright 2003 Doug Gamble