Miruna Codeanu

PR’s last frontier: ISIS

In espresso on August 27, 2014 at 7:08 am



ISIS, The Islamic State of Iraq and  Syria is a jihadist group in the Middle East who has been getting a lot of attention lately as it managed to establish a Caliphate in some parts of Syria and Iraq.

The Pan-Arabia Enquirer published an article about a British PR company who supposedly landed the ISIS account valued at $10 million. This strongly reminded me of The Impossible Brief, an initiative that challenged advertising agencies throughout the world to create a campaign lobbying for peace between Israel and Palestine. Here’s the article announcing in the Pan-Arabia Enquirer: 

“British public relations specialists Bell Pottinger this morning announced that it had won a lucrative contract with new caliphate the Islamic State. The company will oversee and promote the jihadist group’s growing international image in a 36-month deal rumoured by insiders to be worth as much $10 million.

“We’ve been closely watching ISIS transform into the Islamic State and are now delighted to reveal that we’ll be able to use our expertise to help steer this engaging and fast-moving brand onto the next stage of its exciting journey,” a Bell Pottinger spokesperson said in a statement.”  (The Pan-Arabia Enquirer)

An article in Business Insider also informs that a biotech company named ISIS is recording an important growth on the stock market, 43% in the last three months. Editors at Business Insider say they were unable to find a path to motivate the company’s growth. However, this pharma company is completely unrelated to the terrorist group.There is something we know for sure: ISIS is in the spotlight. 

Remember when Putin wrote an editorial in The New York Times? I thought it was genius and I still do. I am however, still a bit puzzled Putin didn’t answer the Ice Bucket Challenge. It would have been a good occasion for Putin’s team to remove a bit of dust of his image as a ruthless despot. I cannot stop asking myself a question. Let’s say you are company  specializing in Political PR. One day you get a brief. Probably we all mean well for someone at the end of the day. Some of us may mean well for some other people against their own will. Someone may impose their vision of a better future on you. This is where the debate starts, but we won’t debate this here. Bottom line is that it is possible to shape the brief for ISIS or Putin or Bashr al Assad to sound like there are good intentions. Here’s Fox News interview with Bashr al-Assad in which Assad doesn’t sound like a merciless, ruthless dictator, but could be taken for a western leader. 

And if Assad is able to deliver a western speech with occidental value, here’s a video from ISIS with a so declared French citizen converted to Islam. 

Leaving aside the content of this young man’s declaration, let’s look at some misleading aspects. This man introduces himself as a French citizen, however his accent betrays him. His French is very good indeed. However, his accent does remind me of Maghrebian countries. He may be coming from a French family, but probably he grew up in one of the maghrebian countries: the pronounciation of “h” and repetition of “le” also followed by an h like in Arabic. However, ISIS did manage to push this movie forward to deliver a message to the international community. It could be read as: ” we are not fanatical Muslism, this is one of you speaking and we fight together for our values”, or “look, even guys like you, from western countries know Allah is the way”. 

So one of these guys, Bashr al-Assad, Putin or Abu omar al-Baghdadi comes to you with a brief for political PR, what do you do? Truth or dare? Would you, would you not? 




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