Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
Or may I call you Ehud? After all, with your new blog (www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/japan/), you chose to take part in the most immediate, personal and informal medium the world has ever seen, so the official title thing really is an awkward fit.
So, Ehud, congratulations on the big news! By launching a blog, you joined more than 112 million other blogs on the World Wide Web. While you're admittedly late to a very crowded party, if you play your posts right, there is virtually no limit to what you can do.
Look, we don't know each other, but trust me that this blogging business takes careful consideration. Your spokesman, Mark Regev, is top gun, but frankly, if the initial blog post were the premiere of a new television show, it would have been canceled on the spot. After all, one of the first sentences your readers saw when they logged on to your blog was "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plane landed in Tokyo shortly before 12:00 today, following an approximately 12-hour flight." I've read legal documents that were more exciting.
But don't worry - all is not lost. Both for Israel's sake and your own, you can still make this latest enterprise of yours so forward-thinking and cool that HBO, which recently bought the Israeli television show "In Treatment," will want to option your blog as well.
If you're going to do it, however, you're going to have to do it right. Rather than see this blog as another pain in your side, you have to embrace the fact that high-ranking public officials need not just dish out sound bites to broadcast news anymore, but can be active participants in the media business, producing and distributing creative content. A blog is just the latest vessel for you to put a human face on policy and showcase the complexity, richness and vibrancy both you and your country represent.
Easier said than done? Not necessarily. Here's some unsolicited advice:
Put It in Your Voice: Ehud, I've seen you work the room enough times to know that you're witty, funny, charismatic and speak good English. None of that comes across in your blog. Your blog isn't even written in your own voice; so much for authenticity. Change that, and fast.
Get Beyond The Text: I don't need to teach a master politician a lesson about the importance of images, do I? Blogs are nice, Ehud, but today, to be truly relevant, you've got to add multimedia. Grab a video camera, and walk us through a tour of your office, or better yet, your house. Take a tape recorder and record your thoughts for a podcast. It may be challenging, but it would also be fun, and it would make your blogging platform truly come to life.
Surprise Us: Get real. Don't just blog from Japan, blog from Sderot, eating dinner with a family that got hit by a Qassam. Send us a video of you beta-testing one of the many inventions of Israel's amazing high-tech industry. It's the unexpected that makes people come back for more.
Make News With It: Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem. You, Ehud, could go to Gaza. Not in person, of course, but with your blog. Consider posts in Arabic, in which you speak not as a prime minister but as a parent, talking to other parents in Gaza and calling on the Palestinians to release Gilad Shalit and stop the bloodshed. You'll make history as the founder of blog diplomacy, not a bad thing for your lagging reputation.
Build Your Brand: What's the blog called? "Travel Diary" is so pareve. You're better than that, you're prime time. Your blog needs a makeover in terms of look and feel. It needs constant care. And it needs to be aggressively promoted, both on- and off-line. Don't let this one fizzle, your team's time commitment is worth it.
Beat The Competition: Hey, don't just check out Bibi's blog, take a look at Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he's surprisingly frank and responsive - even the State Department is getting into the act. Read their blogs, along with those of corporate titans such as Jon Schwartz from Sun Microsystems, and Bob Lutz from General Motors. See how Israelis are spreading viral videos around the world through Web sites like Keta Keta and 5 Min. Video, and follow their lead.
Encourage Us To Comment: Finally, remember Golda's old joke that Israel may have a very small population but each and every citizen fancies him- or herself the prime minister. Let your "colleagues" talk back to you; that, after all, is what the Internet is about. Create a message board to post comments. Sure, there'll be plenty of vile haters to filter out, but also a lot of great ideas streaming in, and it will give people the overall feeling that you are actually listening - an important quality.
Best of luck to you, and I look forward to reading your new and improved posts very soon.
Marco Greenberg is a communications strategist and co-founder of Thunder11. In 2006, he initiated the first- ever national video blog, for Israel's Foreign Ministry.
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