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August 17, 2011

Young professionals learn tools for Israel advocacy

http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/young_professionals_learn_tools_for_israel_advocacy_20110817

BINA LA, the young leadership division of the Israeli Leadership Council, which seeks to develop community among Jewish American and Israeli professionals through intellectual salons, celebrated its first anniversary with the first Israel Advocacy Conference, held at The Mark in Pico-Robertson on Aug. 14.

“We believe that a group of intellectual and empowered young professionals here in Los Angeles will make Israel stronger,” said Naomi Leight, a member of BINA’s steering committee, who conceived the conference with BINA LA Chair Amir Give’on.

“The main battleground is in the media — capturing hearts and minds of individuals,” said Gil Artzyeli, deputy consul general of Israel in Los Angeles, during his opening address.

The resounding tip of the day was: Don’t beleaguer an uninformed, ambivalent audience with heavy political argument.

“We have to figure out what the national brand strategy is for the State of Israel,” Sasha Strauss, managing director and chief strategist at Innovation Protocol, a brand strategy consulting firm, told the crowd of 100, which included Israeli Americans and American Jews.

A great brand, he said, has the power to change perception and command loyalty. He recommended that Israel veer away from its political and religious narrative and brand itself as a model of integration. “Israel is proof of the ability to integrate,” he said.

Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, advised pro-Israel activists to tailor their message to its audience, which can be split into “saints” (those who agree), “sinners” (those who disagree) and “salvageables” (those who can be persuaded). Salvageables, he said, are generally an activist’s target audience and are initially swayed through short, direct messages that, in this case, should be prefaced with, “Israel wants peace.”

Smart, informative and personality-filled Facebook and Twitter posts are powerful tools for winning over “salvageables” on the social media front, said speaker Sharone Levinson, executive director of Act for Israel, an organization that specializes in Israel advocacy through social media.

As an example, she cited a recent post of theirs that drew close to 500,000 views: “Amazing: 300,000 people protested in the streets of Israel. Through the country only 7 people detained. Democracy rules.” Pro-Israel organizations, she said, should invest in a social media plan. 

“Cyber-solidarity” is emerging as a new force in politics, especially in Arab countries that suppress the voice of the people, concluded Israeli analyst and consultant Ra’anan Gissin. But the power of social media engines like Facebook is the forum they provide to tell a story.

“Everyone wants to hear a good story,” he said. “They’re tired of hearing messages.”

To watch videos of the presentations, visit http://binala.org/iac2011.

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