When I was a teenager, I came to Israel to study in the Mir Yeshiva. Together with thousands of other boys, we rented apartments in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem, where we slept and cooked our own meals once in awhile.

Yes, we had fun, too. Purim time in the month of Adar, we hung a “Haman.” He consisted of a pillow dressed with a shirt and pants.

The following afternoon, one of my roommates walked in and said, “There’s a news photographer outside, taking pictures of our Haman!”

I went onto the porch and greeted him. He asked me to come down and talk to him, which I did.

He mentioned one of the large Israeli Hebrew dailies. As we spoke he told me, “We got a call that you guys had hung an effigy of prime minister Barak, so I came to take photos for the paper.”

Then he said, “It doesn’t SAY his name on the effigy, so I can’t use it.” The next sentence, however, made me shiver: “If you could go upstairs and hang a sign from his neck saying Ehud Barak, it would make a powerful image I could use.”

Had I acquiesced to his request, the story would have been an anti-haredi monster! This was not, as I’ve learned, a one-time thing. As a business adviser and columnist, I see firsthand how people with an agenda spend their time, energy and money to control the media conversation.

What’s fair game?

When you are a business, at least, it’s fair game to use the media to get business buzz via being newsworthy. For instance, the US pizza chain Pizza Patron has been splashed all over the news the last few days. How did they get attention? They are offering people who order pizza in Spanish free pizza on June 5 “to honor the contributions of immigrants.”

Sure, it will cost them money in the form of free pizza (for which they pay cost, and people order drinks and side dishes), but it got them many millions of dollars worth of free PR and media impressions. (The same pizza store made national headlines a few years ago by accepting Mexican pesos for pizza.) It’s a shrewd public-relations move that doesn’t cost much to do, yet it brings in wonderful benefits – not just in sales, but also in the goodwill, loyalty and support of their customers who appreciate the personal touch. And the backlash? They are laughing all the way to the bank!

So how do you get this sort of attention? Well, you don’t want to try to interest the media in your story.

What you do want to do is enter the conversation already talking place. Offer your input and expertise as a source, or fit your story into the conversation by finding an angle that’s already getting airtime.

Case in point: When I want to generate media publicity, there is always a need for a new angle, something fresh, something newsworthy. Instead of trying to get coverage “as a business,” it is much more newsworthy and intriguing when I can tie it in with another angle that would allow it to be covered in a whole new range of publications and reporter beats.

For instance, there is something called “carbon credits” where you can buy a governmental permit to release a certain amount of carbon into the environment, or choose to keep the credit and not use it, saving the environment from being polluted with that carbon.

So if I was looking for PR with that hook, I would use an angle like, “Orthodox Rabbi Goes Green.” Then I would offer the saving of carbon credit from ever being released to the environment for every new client or corporation that has me speak. It ties in well with buzzwords like “tikkun olam” and good corporate responsibly, and it would be shared across the social networks among folks who love the environment. That’s a good thing, considering environmentally conscious Jews are actually a fairly large group of people who are both successful and passionate about saving the environment.

Would I be willing to put on a green hat and hassidic coat instead of a black one for the cameras?

But now that you understand the way the media really works, you could turn it on its head. Perhaps I’d say, tongue firmly in cheek: “I would have worn a green hassidic hat today. But I decided it was better for the environment not to waste all that energy and material making it happen!”

issamar@issamar.com

Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi who has been published in more than 50 business publications.

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