If you’re anything like me, your inbox has been flooded with letters from organizations telling you how the economic downturn has affected their organization and how they plan to deal with it. Reading these letters got me thinking about Israel’s public relations image and the language we use to represent ourselves.
Let me present you with two examples of letters I recently received. Both were from schools of which I am an alumna and both are private institutions, one at the high school and one at the university level.
- Both organizations stated that they were financially strong
- Both organizations admitted that they had taken a hit from the economic crisis
- Both organizations said that alumni were the backbone of their financial health and asked for support
- Both organizations phrased their requests using positive language to describe the missions of their organizations
However, the letters differed when they started talking about how they would respond to the crisis.
Example A: Excerpt
“In order to accomplish [our mission], compete with peer schools, and meet the standards set by all alumni/ae like yourself, the School relies on its academic, art, athletic, and financial programs, as well as its faculty and facilities for its resources… The Annual Fund is the lifeblood of all of these resources. Almost 7% of the School’s operating budget comes from its the Annual Fund. Given the challenges imposed by recent economic conditions, it is with greater emphasis that we ask for your support.”
I hit upon the words: “accomplish,” “compete,” “lifeblood,” “recent economic challenges.”
Example B: Excerpt
“As we go forward, we will need to make difficult decisions about how we use our resources and set priorities. I am confident that we will have the cooperation and support of everyone in our community to weather this rough period. Indeed, I am gratified by the hundreds of alumnae and friends who have made generous commitments to the [Alumni/ae] Fund in recent weeks, even amid continued economic challenges.”
I hit upon the words: “difficult decisions,” “cooperation,” “weather this rough period,” “continued economic challenges.”
The (Desired) Effect
After reading both of these letters, I was convinced that School A may have suffered some insignificant losses, but would continue to thrive while School B was in real trouble. So who would be the obvious one to donate money to? No one wants to invest in a sinking ship.
— Read on to learn how this relates to Israel —
The Israel Parallel
So what does this have to do with Israel? Plenty. When you listen to or read descriptions of Israel as a country, what do you think of? What are the trigger words that present signs of positives and negatives? For many people I know, the word “Israel” brings on thoughts of war, desert, and discrimination.
For me it’s the exact opposite. Israel is a country that has served as a sanctuary for millions of refugees. It is a bastion of the worldwide hi-tech industry, a bustling marketplace of ideas. When I think of Israel, I think of warm food, family, passion, and creativity.
So which one of these realities will you buy into? Which one better represents Israel as a destination for investment, be it on the streets of Tel Aviv or in the laboratories of the Technion?
What We Learn From This Comparison
The point is that we are inspired by confidence and want to be part of it. Remember the “cool kids” in high school? It didn’t matter what they stood for, everyone wanted to be connected with them. They exuded confidence and superiority, which is what made them attractive.
Not much changed as we got older. In our quest for cool, Israel must prove its desirability through the language we use to present ourselves and the images that we portray to the world. Ingenuity, technology, passion, peace, and cooperation are all ways to do this.
Ghandi said: “Be the good that you want to see in the world.” Aspire to this, present ourselves as such, and we will not only attract others to us, but in fashioning ourselves in that image, we will become it.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Have you received letters from organizations that resemble the ones above? Or have you written similar letters for your own organization? What has the response been? What are your favorite things about Israel that you think others should know about? How can you (and we) be a part of presenting and promoting the Israel that we want to see?
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Read good news from Israel:
- “Good News from Israel: The Fight Against Anti-Semitism”
- “Gaza Giving: Surfing for Peace with Dr. Dorian Paskowitz”
Learn more about Jewish philanthropy:
- “Assessing the “Forward 50″: What We Can Learn About Top American Jewish Philanthropists”
- “The Future of Jewish Philanthropy: An Interview with Mark Charendoff of the Jewish Funders Network”
- “Designing the Perfect Donor: Profile of Harold Grinspoon, Social Entrepreneur”
- The New Jew’s archives for November 2007 (a stellar month)
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