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