Netanyahu’s Image Soars; Obama to Blame

March 5, 2015
Netanyahu sentiment chart

The results of a sentiment study performed by Gregory FCA show that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu significantly improved his image and reputation with the American public after speaking before Congress this week.

The study, which was conducted by Gregory FCA using Sysomos, a leading social analytic and online monitoring platform, found that positive sentiment for Netanyahu increased by an astounding 16 percentage points, while negative sentiment toward the Israeli Prime Minister decreased 6 percentage points following his speech.

Sysomos applies an automated sentiment scoring algorithm against more than 500 billion online posts, articles, and conversations to determine the relative positive and negative sentiment surrounding an issue, personality, brand or trending news topic.

The findings are surprising considering  Netanyahu’s remarks were made before an American public made weary by two recent wars and the prices paid. The results though, show that Netanyahu made his case convincingly and that the counter measures deployed by the Obama Administration may have only served to elevate Netanyahu in the eyes of Americans.

That’s disturbing. Netanyahu’s appearance demanded an effective, coordinated response. A fact missed by White House communications people, who inadvertently ratcheted up the hype and media interest in the speech.  By choosing to boycott, instead of respond, the White House created a perfect vacuum for the Prime Minister to exploit. Here’s what could have and should have been done to counter the appearance:

1) Take control of the narrative. What were they thinking?  Rule one of public relations: If you aren’t telling your story, someone else is. The Administration could have easily taken the steam out of story by agreeing to meet privately in advance with our staunchest ally.  And then emerge to explain to the American people where we agree and where we differ. By commanding the conversation, Obama would have injected his message into the news reporting and taken interest away from the speech itself. Instead, he let the Prime Minister frame the issues and establish his moral authority with the American people.

2) Speak to the real points of pain. Obama and his proxies attacked Netanyahu’s speech as if they were scoring a high school debate, missing the real points of pain. Who cares about Netanyahu’s lack of a plan? Americans simply do not want more blood and treasures shed. But instead of speaking in bold, strong terms about the risk of war, the Administration chose simply to complain in ways that trivialized the conversation when it could have catalyzed opinion in their favor. The Onion said it best: “Netanyahu Feeling Like Trip To US To Start World War III Went Pretty Well.” Oh, if only our government could speak as plainly.

3) Perception is reality. Fire the guy who suggested that our President respond while seated and cameras videoed him from above in a classic position of subordination. Perception over substance? Okay, I am guilty. But when your opponent looks like George Patton, don’t look like George Plimpton. It’s more than simple image. It’s about understanding the medium and using it to your full advantage.

4)Trump News With Bigger News. Isn’t that just PR 101? If your opponent plans to make news, simply replace it with bigger news of your own. The Administration could have easily orchestrated some other major news event of the day. Like a past President who fired cruise missiles at Bin Laden the day he testified that he never had sexual relations with that woman. As Michael Keaton reminds his ex-wife in Birdman, “Farrah Fawcett died on exactly the same day as Michael Jackson,” the insinuation being that all news is eclipse-able and anyone can be rendered forgettable. In this regard, it’s little wonder that Benjamin Netanyahu made such a positive impact on American sentiment. Reputation management takes effort and hard work. In this instance, The Obama Administration’s PR people were simply not up to the task, which is unfortunate considering the wages of war.

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