Public relations advice for Bashar al-Assad

sy-lgflagDear Mr. al-Assad,

It is with the utmost sadness and frustration that I have been following the horrible war in your country over the years. I studied your Instagram account and other social media properties in detail on the same day that I learned about the destruction and grief that was brought upon your people by a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. Every indication is that your government perpetuated this massacre. For the benefit of yourself, your people and mankind, I want to offer you the following public relations advice:

  • Social media requires authenticity. Your Instagram account shows lovely photos of you and your wife caring for you the sick citizens of your nation. Do you really think anyone – with the exception of a few of your fanatical supporters – believes you really care for the sick of Syria when images and videos of mass graves and innocent dead children are beamed across television sets and computers around the world? Portraying these photos on social media at the same time you are brutally murdering your people is a slap in the face to us.
  • Social media requires openness. Do you think the public is so stupid to believe that an overwhelming number of the comments about you are really positive? We see these negative posts disappear, as this Washington Post article details. If you are going to join the social media party, you need to play by the rules (a concept probably quite foreign to you given to how well you have fared in abiding by human rights rules). By censoring global public opinion on social media, you are only giving a glimpse into how you stifled voices in your own country (not to mention kill people who disagree with you). Check out how the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks your country for media censorship.
  • You should read the definition of public relations, defined by the Public Relations Society of America (tangent: sorry, I know you are not a big fan of America – and for the record I am not proud of the US’ different military engagements in your part of the world. If you had ever allowed a free press in Syria, perhaps there could have been a Public Relations Society of Syria). You will read that public relations is defined as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. How are your PR endeavors building mutually beneficial relationships? You will also see that public relations means interpreting public opinion. You should think about how your actions are resonating with publics around the world. Did you ever consider using social media to access opinions about your actions and then based on this feedback, adapt accordingly? You will see that PR needs to take into account the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities. How is your organization – The Syrian Presidency – faring in this regard?

There is a big difference between strategic public relations and spin. You are guilty – among many more heinous crimes – of the latter. PR can’t overcome poor products and choices. You have taken this to a whole new level.

So here is what you need to do. Examine your heart of hearts and plead to your God and your people for mercy and forgiveness. Apologize directly to the mothers and fathers of the children you’ve killed. End the senseless war that you have helped perpetuate which has accounted for so much death and destruction. Agree to stand trial immediately for crimes against humanity. Better yet, plead guilty and don’t even stand trial and graciously accept the punishment. This would be the best strategic PR move you could ever make. For the sake of every suffering Syrian, please follow this advice.

Peace,

Kevin Anselmo

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About Kevin Anselmo

Kevin Anselmo is the Founder and Principal of Experiential Communications, a consultancy focused on education. He helps brands within academia - whether individual or corporate - communicate with stakeholders. He also teaches communications and public relations workshops to different individuals and groups and just launched an online media training program for academics. Previously, Kevin was Director of Public Relations for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and prior to that managed the media relations for IMD Business School in Switzerland. In addition, he was an adjunct communications professor at Nyack College in New York. Currently based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Kevin lived and worked in Switzerland for eight years and in Germany for two years. He has led public relations initiatives in various countries around the world.
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