You may have been shocked by this , or perhaps you were intrigued by this Last week, New Yorkers woke up to see this Meet David Saranga, . . the man whose campaigns are rebranding Israel
LOG ON TO the website of the Israeli consulate of New York at www. israelfm.org, and you will find more than just guidance on visa applications. Prominently displayed on the homepage are links to Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and isRealli, the “new blog of Israel”. Diplomats’ websites tend to be staid, unexciting places, so to find these connections to social-networking sites comes as something of a surprise. These innovative web efforts are at the forefront of the consulate’s current hasbara (public informa- tion) campaign — whose aim is no less than to change Israel’s image. They are supplemented by creative offline initiatives, which are promoting the country in a new, more positive light to a global audience.
The campaign mastermind is David Saranga, the 43year-old consul for media and public affairs. Formerly deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he has an MBA in marketing — and it shows. His vocational degree, and experience, is important. “During my time as a spokesperson in Israel,” says Saranga, “it was not difficult to see that the 400 foreign correspondents we dealt with daily were there for one reason only — to cover the conflict. Their interest was only in the political issues of the country. They were not there to write on the many positive aspects of life in Israel, only on the negative.
“When I arrived in New York, I learnt from that experience. To have the greatest impact on perceptions of Israel, we must highlight the positive and focus public-relations efforts on the many fields outside of politics: such as architecture, green technology, sport. Not only targeting the major news channels, but the many new-media channels too.”
Extensive audience research laid the foundation upon which this new hasbara strategy has been built. Creative, inclusive thinking by the young team around Saranga has been vitally important too.
The campaign made headlines last summer with the publication of a feature on female IDF soldiers baring nearly all in swimsuits in the American edi-