The CIC is a prestigious program that trains outstanding students in the fields of public diplomacy and spokesmanship, and provides them with the skills necessary to represent Israel in the international sphere. The topic of the workshop was “How to Positively Rebrand Israel.”
The first speaker was Dr. Raanan Gissin, a former senior advisor for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His presentation focused on methods to combat the de-legitimization of Israel against BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) and Israel apartheid movements. The tactics that Dr. Gissin suggested involved changing the image of the Arab / Israeli relationship through Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), Media and International Institutions.
The key takeaway seemed to be that by sharing positive images and promoting Israeli good deeds to the public (e.g. Humanitarian Aid in the Philippines) would facilitate a re-conceptualization about Israel. Dr. Gissin also believes that a constant flow of positive media, with the rapid spread of technology to uneducated populations will enable the upcoming generations to conceptualize Israel through more than just one lens.
The second speaker was Itzik Yarkoni the founder of BOMAH – Brand of Milk and Honey. Itzik’s presentation focused on using Social Media to combat anti-Israel publicity and teaching the BOMAH strategy of storytelling to connect people to Israel.
Itzik began his presentation by asking a volunteer from the audience what finger she would use to ring a doorbell (drawn on a whiteboard). As you might have guessed she used her index finger. Itzik then explained how youth today are so engaged with technology (smart phones) that when asking a young person the same question, the most common answer was the thumb.
This concept coincides with the idea that the Internet and Social Media are now the most relied on sources of information for our youth and the next generations. Instead of doing research at the library people can simply use Google Search for all the information they need.
The point to be made here is that Israel is losing the battle on social media. The majority of content that appears when people search about Israel is skewed information that leads to a negatives perceptions of Israel.
During the workshop a young woman asked the question, “So what is the message?” According to Itzik the message is that stories peak a genuine interest from your followers and by sharing your experiences you allow people to see Israel in a unique and different light, from your perspective. Storytelling is an extremely powerful communication tool that publicly illustrates the personal aspect of Israel, a technique that is not reflected on the media.
Another participant answered,
“That’s the magical thing, this is your message. Nobody is telling you what message to convey, it is what ever you want to tell.”
Itzik gave examples using the storytelling strategy to combat BDS, apartheid week and other anti-Semitic actions on Social Media and explained why positive content is more effective than negative content. “People want to know what you think and what your personal feelings are about your experience.”
BOMAH offers a new strategy for the pro-Israel online community by using storytelling on Social Media. The goal is to reach new audiences through storytelling so that they can experience the personal side of Israel.
The workshop concluded with an activity where everybody worked in groups of two with the task of brainstorming an idea for a post that would combat anti-Israel content on Social Media using storytelling. There were many creative ideas that were presented; I especially liked one that played off the BDS creating the BBS – Bountiful Beer for Students organization.
It was a very special and rewarding experience to be able to participate in the workshop. I had the opportunity to meet and brainstorm with graduate students that understand the necessity and are passionate about re-branding Israel.
The tools are there for everyone who wants to spread awareness. The battle against the de-legitimization and boycott against Israel can be fought though being proactive, staying positive and sharing your story.