U.S. diplomacy needs PR help, not advertising

If the U.S. is serious about a long-term engagement in public diplomacy, I am not sure if advertising executives are the people to turn to [“The Peace Brokers,” A&C, June 23]. Since, over the long run, ideas can be more potent than weapons, a coordinated long-term public relations-based program—not an ad campaign—is crucial for reaching both domestic and international audiences and actually changing attitudes and perceptions.

As we have seen, Charlotte Beers’ idea to run ads was ineffective, to say the least. In this case, advertising is not the way to generate credibility; this is not a situation where tweaking the creative will accomplish the objective.

A truly comprehensive strategic PR-based campaign should be developed by public/media relations executives, perhaps with some sort of ad campaign as side tactic. Advertising as a medium does not generate third-party editorial credibility, which is crucial here, especially if we are trying to reach people in different nations and cultures in their native voices.

The U.S. should look to World War I’s U.S. Committee on Public Information as a model. Created by Woodrow Wilson, its mission was to communicate wartime objectives and safety messages domestically while publicizing American goals overseas. A similar effort—the Office of War Information—was implemented during World War II. Both functioned well enough within the structure of a democratic society and the First Amendment. Resurrecting the recently eviscerated U.S. Information Agency could be a place to start.

Lloyd P. Trufelman
President Trylon Communications
New York

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