Friday, August 30, 2013

Syrian Public Relations: Assad on Digital Media

Even on the eve of a possible American military strike on Syria, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad continues to aggressively utilize Public Relations campaigns. For many years, the man has valued propaganda, and today is no different. Assad is all over social media channels, including Instagram (, and YouTube – Assad and his close supporters are utilizing multiple Facebook accounts (, as well as an account entitled “The People of Syria Support President Bashar al-Assad” which can be found at

Ironically, using American companies, Assad is able to show the influence of digital media to spread his message. On Instagram, Assad is able to ignore the civil war which has killed more than 100,000 Syrians, and highlight his day-to-day meetings and tasks. Many of his social media pages (including Facebook) have been updated in the last few hours. Assad, who has utilized US
Public Relations Firms, even gave an interview this week to the Russian paper, Izvestia, where he warned America “Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day.” Clearly a man who understands the importance of PR, as he sends a message to Americans, many of whom are less than happy about intervening in a foreign conflict.

As has been written before in Times of Israel, “In the past, American Professor David Lesch urged Syria to hire a U.S. PR firm for a two-year engagement at $150,000 per month. An international public-relations agency, Brown Lloyd James secured to coordinate a Vogue Magazine profile and photo shoot for Asma al-Assad, Syria’s First Lady which depicted her as “A Rose in the Desert” in a positive feature. There was a description of her as the ‘freshest and most magnetic of first ladies, endowed with ‘[d]ark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace.”

Assad’s propaganda is certainly spinning a much different tale then the media is reporting – let’s see if it influences Obama’s administration as they debate striking Syria.

Ronn Torossian


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Partisan, Liberal American Jewish Committee

Non-partisan is a term which is generally used to describe an organization or a person unaffiliated with any party, free from bias, or political designation. So when an organization makes a claim of being nonpartisan, but historically consistently supports certain viewpoints, policies and positions, clearly that description can no longer be used to identify it.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is just that kind of organization.  It claims to be “strictly non-partisan” – yet cannot be non-partisan when they continually support a failed peace process and a two-state solution. Just as those who oppose a Palestinian State on principle are partisan, so too are those who support a two-state solution. The AJC has a $100 million budget providing it with a strong bully pulpit that allows it to further its left-wing agenda, which includes promoting a Palestinian State. That is the prerogative of its Board and its leaders, but they should not falsely claim to have no political leanings.

In 2004, the leadership of the AJC met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s national security adviser, Jibril Rajoub, and the AJC leader, David Harris, publicly urged Israel to use the “road map” to get to “peace.”

At that time he said, “If the line were closer to the Clinton-Barak lines, the U.S. would have less concerns and the fence could be politically defensible.” (Those parameters would have placed nearly 97 percent of Judea and Samaria in Palestinian hands.)

During that meeting, Rajoub said, “Terror attacks against Israeli civilians within the Green Line were a tragic mistake for the Palestinian people.”  The clear implication was killing innocent Jews elsewhere is alright. The partisan leaders of the AJC responded with silence, and ignored the words of Rajoub, perhaps because focusing on them would require the organization’s leaders to reflect on what that means for true peace.  This month, Rajoub said, “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”

Perhaps the reason AJC continually pushes its “non-partisan” classification is because it represents a liberal ideology which is out of touch with the majority of both American Jews and Israelis.  In their desire to be seen as mainstream, repeating a lie again and again may convince some people. In reality, the majority of Israelis rejected the far-left parties who hold positions most similar to AJC overwhelmingly in the two most recent elections. AJC’s own polls show that for two years less than half of U.S. Jews support a Palestinian state, 38% and 43%, respectively.

Yet, Harris and AJC march on with their liberal agenda, most recently with a Huffington Post op-ed entitled “Give The Peace Process A Chance.” Harris falsely claimed Tzipi Livni is a “minister with the Likud Party,” when she is a Minister of the Hatenua party, the furthest left-wing party currently in the coalition.  Harris failed to mention that just a few weeks ago he issued a press release where he condemned Livni’s colleagues for opposing a Palestinian State. AJC’s release quoted Minister Naftali Bennett as saying, “The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build. It’s important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel’s leaders’ unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.” The AJC condemned Bennett for supporting the right of Jews to live anywhere in the Land of Israel.

In AJC’s press release, Harris said, “Bennett contravenes the outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu and contradicts the vision presented earlier this month to the AJC Global Forum by Minister Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians.”  Showing support for Livni’s ideology, not Bennett’s – is partisan. Harris has the right to say what he wants — but as Bennett and Livni are partisan – so too is AJC.

Harris continues to blindly advocate for a Palestinian State with little rhyme or reason; like a broken record he calls on Israelis to sacrifice repeatedly. Perhaps AJC should remember the words of Albert Einstein who said, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.”

In 1928, the great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky said, “Peace with the Arabs is, of course, to be desired. There is no need for a discussion on this matter among the Jews. All of us, one hundred percent of us, want peace.” Prime Minister Netanyahu proclaimed in a Knesset meeting in 2006, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel.” In 2013, both Jabotinsky’s and Netanyahu’s words remain true.

The AJC has positioned itself as the “State Department of the Jewish people,” a self-proclaimed foreign affairs arm of the Jewish community. At least the State Department under pro-Israel presidents changes viewpoints with time. The AJC, regardless of who is in charge, Prime Minister Netanyahu or Rabin, President Bush or Obama, has been committed to a two-state solution – regardless of what American Jews or Israelis want.

Indeed, the AJC has that right in this great country — just don’t pretend that it is non-partisan. Even a PR firm CEO couldn’t claim or spin that the AJC isn’t liberal.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Where and When to Give to Charity

I read a thought provoking article in Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Good Charity, Bad Charity,” in which an Ethics Professor from Princeton University argues that all philanthropy is not equal.

The article says, in part:

    “Try a thought experiment. Suppose you have a choice between visiting the art museum, including its new wing, or going to see the museum without visiting the new wing. Naturally, you would prefer to see it with the new wing. But now imagine that an evil demon declares that out of every 100 people who see the new wing, he will choose one, at random, and inflict 15 years of blindness on that person. Would you still visit the new wing? You’d have to be nuts.”

    “Even if the evil demon blinded only one person in every 1,000, in my judgment, and I bet in yours, seeing the new wing still would not be worth the risk.  If you agree, then you are saying, in effect, that the harm of one person’s becoming blind outweighs the benefits received by 1,000 people visiting the new wing.”

    “Therefore a donation that saves one person from becoming blind would be better value than a donation that enables 1,000 people to visit the new wing. But your donation to the organization preventing trachoma will save not just one but 10 people from becoming blind for every 1,000 people it could provide with an enhanced museum experience. Hence a donation to prevent trachoma offers at least 10 times the value of giving to the museum.”

Indeed, anyone engaged in philanthropy has choices to make.  A friend of mine, a mega-philanthropist with an eight figure endowment, refuses to donate to, as he calls it, “Saving the whales, or wildlife.” He says that as long as there is no cure for cancer and worldwide hunger, other things can wait.  And indeed, I can understand him.

I am proud to give charity and believe it is every single person’s duty to give back via philanthropy. A few years ago, I founded the Ronn Torossian Family Foundation, a mechanism through which my family and I focus some of our philanthropic efforts. The Foundation gives to education, youth, religious groups, and to Israel – things which I believe make people’s lives easier and better.  I routinely turn down important causes because I simply believe in focusing on the causes most important to me.

Indeed, anyone who gives must ask themselves these questions. What and where to focus? Do you give to the homeless person in front of your building, or a charity focused on feeding the hungry? Do you provide for the poor in your local city, or in Israel? Do you give to help sick kids, or cure cancer?

What I do know is that there are many philanthropies and important causes that make the world better – and it is indeed necessary to give and “pay it forward.”  Where and what to give is an extremely personal decision, but it is a matter worth examining for everyone who gives. What I am certain of is that those who give charity are better off than those who don’t.

Connect with Ronn Torossian on Linkedin Here.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Other Religions are Modernizing With Social Media

For thousands of years, there have been many different religious belief systems. In ancient times, religion was often spread by word of mouth – or the conqueror’s sword. As society grew and explorers set out across the oceans looking for new lands, there were often two goals on their mind: finding fortune and spreading the gospel. As modern communication continues to improve, social media platforms offer many options for religious leaders to better reach out to their flocks.

Following my recent blog entitled, The American Jewish Establishment Must Embrace Social Media, many Jewish leaders reached out to me to complain, comment, and bicker. Clearly I hit on something sensitive – and I hope changes are made that benefit our community.

Outside of Judaism, many different religious leaders continue to adapt the manner in which they reach out to their flocks. Many religions have upgraded to 21st century technology, and as CEO of 5WPR, I wanted to highlight three ways that religious groups are catching up with the times.

1. Pope on Twitter

The leader of the Catholic Church is now utilizing Twitter to get his message out to people. In December of 2012, the account @Pontifex was created for use by Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to a younger, more tech savvy audience. Other accounts were created in other languages, such as Italian, and with his combined accounts, the Pope has more than six million followers. It was only 100 years ago that, for the first time, the Pope’s voice was transmitted around the world, and people in other nations could hear him speak.  Today, his doctrine can be blasted around the world in an instant to throngs of followers. Can’t Rabbis worldwide learn something from the Pope?

2. WebChat Questions

Many religious organizations and leaders have elaborate websites and conduct live web chat sessions for those who have questions. Mormons, who require young members to go on missions across the country and around the world, have stay-at-home missionaries working the chat lines at, where anyone can speak with a real person at any time of day to ask questions about the Mormon faith. In Judaism, and both have outstanding web chat platforms and host interactive discussions with strong, quick communications taking place.

3. Facebook Identity

Since the launch of Facebook, the personal information “About” section has included the same basic items: Name, Birthday, Hometown, Current City, Relationship Status, and Religion. Though anyone can choose not to enter their religion, this section is still the cornerstone of identity on the largest social network in the world.

Facebook also features a myriad of groups and fan pages dedicated to every type of religion and belief system, and serves as a place where people can come together without leaving their homes. Old world institutions are usually the last ones to modernize, but it is clear that many religious groups and institutions are learning the importance of social media, and its many uses.

Jewish leaders need to improve on their use social media.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Horrible Israel PR & Social Media: Misspellings and Bad Links

As the CEO of an award-winning PR Agency, I am proud to stand as a supporter of Israel.  We have advised a plethora of Israeli government offices and officials, as well as countless Pro-Israel and Jewish organizations. As a passionate Israel supporter, I am involved with Israel on many levels, including countering media bias against Israel and other related matters.

That said, we must accept that Israel bears part of the blame for negative media coverage by virtue of having awful public relations. Besides the fact that nowhere in the world does the government employ PR agencies, The Israel Foreign Ministry in the U.S. (as in every other country in the world, including Israel) needs help. After my most recent article “Israel Sucks At Social Media” where I criticized the official blog of the Israeli government (which they closed after my post), the Israeli government tweeted to me from @Israelinnewyork saying: “Great, you found an old site on the interweb that is no longer updated, what a find!”, and (mockingly): “PS, our Myspace page is EPIC, definitely worth another Op-Ed.”

Israel’s image is far from stellar and their Public Relations awful.   Their tweets encouraged me to further review Israeli government websites. The results are simply terrible – replete with spelling errors, broken links and inaccurate information. Israeli representatives do an awful job of communicating.

For example, review, on the “ABOUT ISRAEL” link (upper right), there’s a page filled with spelling errors. For example, “Land of milk and ’honney.”  Last I checked, it is spelled “honey.” Even worse, on that same page under the section called “FastFacts,” under “Languages,” the word “Hebrew” is spelled “Hebraew”! How can an official website of Israel make such an error?

In the Milk and Honney section, if you click the “READ MORE” link, it goes to this page: and offers a largely blank page with three lines as seen on the previous page. On under “VISIT US” (lower left side), there’s a link to an incorrect twitter account & on the same page under TOOLS AND INFORMATION there are multiple broken links.

Clicking on “Israel Politik – Blog” links to – a sports blog about European soccer.  If you actually go to (NOTE THE PROPER SPELLING OF ISRAEL), you will see the blog which the Government of Israel intended to connect its viewers with.  On another blog  there is content which was haphazardly copied and pasted, different fonts and random paragraph spacing.

Hopefully after reading this, someone in the government takes a more serious look at Internet properties and takes major steps to improve on them.  After many years of hoping for change, I no longer hold my breath. I have spoken extensively with multiple government officials and it just doesn’t change. Outside of the Pro-Israel community, no one knows or care about “The Foreign Ministry”, or “official representatives.” The media and the public view the Government of Israel as one uniform body.  Consistently, and regularly the Israeli government fails miserably at communications.

I have spoken privately on multiple occasions with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and previously Prime Minister Olmert. Have met individually with  Jerusalem Mayors, Mayors of Tel Aviv, Cabinet Members, Members of Knesset and more. I think highly of the Israel Consul General in New York, the Honorable Ido Aharoni who understands media. Despite all of this, and the multiple government offices responsible for PR, the Israeli government simply does a terrible job of managing Brand Israel.

Frankly, Israel’s Public Relations and online brand is awful. There are many Pro-Israel supporters worldwide who are professionals who would be happy to help Israel improve its communications, public relations, and marketing efforts.  The State of Israel must do more to fix the many problems which are self-inflicted. Start-Up Nation? Or Third World Country?

Connect with 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian on Linkedin.