With the dramatic stroke of a red marker, the “Bibi Bomb” became an instant sensation.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood before world leaders on September 27 at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly, he faced a colossal challenge. Despite the vocal skepticism of those who feel the situation is not as dire as he maintains, Netanyahu has been steadfast in his insistence that Iran is well on its way to stockpiling enough enriched uranium to construct a nuclear bomb.
It was under those circumstances that he addressed the UN.
Observers anticipated a passionate plea from the Israeli leader about the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran. They expected that Netanyahu would detail exactly how close Iran is to obtaining a nuclear weapon. And, as predicted, Netanyahu, who was armed with the facts, duly stated his case.
But it was when the prime minister displayed a caricature of a bomb with a lighted fuse, and drew a bold red line on the graphic in order to impart upon his audience – and the world – the gravity of the Iranian threat, that he made his mark.
The simple-looking drawing generated an immediate response. Netanyahu was simultaneously extolled by supporters and derided by critics.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called it “an unforgettable speech that delivered its message.”
“Everyone is talking about it,” he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mocked Netanyahu, calling the picture “childish and primitive” and intellectually insulting to the world leaders in attendance.
Members of the news media debated the use of the cartoon-like drawing, which drew sarcastic comparisons to the type of bomb one might expect to see used as part of the legendary feud between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner of Looney Tunes lore.
I would suggest that the prime minister’s use of the bomb graphic was a brilliantly designed and extremely well-executed public relations plan.
The objective of a successful p.r. effort is to get your message out. You have something you wish to convey to the public and you endeavor to find the most effective way to disseminate it. The underlying goal is to leave the public with a lasting impression of what it is you have to communicate.
Netanyahu did exactly that. On a day when many world leaders addressed the UN General Assembly, it was Netanyahu’s speech that stole the show and generated the most attention in the media and around the world.
Americans woke up the morning after Netanyahu’s address to a barrage of media coverage concerning his remarks and, more particularly, the use of his red marker and the bomb illustration.
The image of “Bibi’s Bomb” was prominently featured above the fold on the front page of many major American newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. It was the topic of radio talk shows and TV news roundtables. The Twittersphere and other social media outlets were abuzz with references to Netanyahu’s speech and his bomb graphic.
The bomb cartoon may have been the subject of many jokes, but it also helped propel the debate about a nuclear Iran to the forefront and into the hearts and minds of Americans.
As far as Netanyahu is concerned, his visual aid was a resounding success because his demonstration led to an international dialogue about red lines on Iran.
“Hundreds of millions of people got my message,” he proclaimed on Israeli TV.
Netanyahu defended the use of the drawing and insisted that it enabled him to effectively communicate his message. He said the use of the bomb graphic was carefully contemplated as he sought to simplify an extremely complex issue so that a wide range of people could fully grasp his point.
Netanyahu’s inner circle deliberated for several days about the merits of using the drawing in order to facilitate an understanding of the Iran situation. In collaboration with the prime minister, they concluded that using the cartoon would help highlight the salient points Netanyahu wanted to transmit to the world.
In an environment such as the UN General Assembly, where world leaders are competing for attention, utilizing a visual aid is theoretically a clever way to stand out and capture much-coveted headlines.
The use of visual aids is not new to the UN. In 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, publicly displayed for the first time aerial photographs of Soviet missiles in Cuba. In 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell presented satellite images and a vial containing white powder intended to look like anthrax in order to make his point that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. In 2009, then-Libyan leader Muammar Khaddafi held a copy of the UN Charter aloft, tore it up, and dramatically tossed it aside during his UN address.
Over the years, Netanyahu has shown a propensity for utilizing visual aids. For example, in 2009 he brandished a copy of the blueprints from Auschwitz as he denounced Ahmadinejad’s statements that the Holocaust never happened.
In retrospect, the Bibi Bomb was a perfect public relations tool. With his red marker, Netanyahu displayed a stroke of PR genius. On the international stage, with the world watching, his explosive visual aid and magical pen got the entire world talking about the threat of a nuclear Iran.
N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the web at www.PaulReverePR.com or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/troodler.N. Aaron Troodler
About the Author: N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal at Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. He also serves as director of communications and public relations for the National Council of Young Israel.
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