Defenders and detractors of Israel don’t agree on much, but both parties acknowledge that Israel has major PR problems. In a world where perception is reality, Jewish leaders have desperately tried to counteract negative messages in the media with their own. But they often need help.
Eva Rosenstein is a communication specialist on a mission to promote a different kind of narrative. As a top media consultant, she trains politicians, diplomats, professionals, students and leaders to speak effectively on behalf of Israel. “I believe that Israelis are trainable,” says Rosenstein. “The problem right now is that Israel doesn’t know how to convey its message to the world and even to other Israelis.”
Rosenstein serves as the president and CEO of the Lilyan Wilder Group: Center for Communication Excellence, a nonprofit dedicated to helping spokespeople present Israel’s case to the public.
Rosenstein has noted several deficiencies Israelis face in their approach to advocacy. “One of the problems I have found is many Israeli spokespeople think that saying the things our enemies like to hear would cause them to love us,” she says.
Rosenstein explains that instead of speaking from a position of strength, Israelis often portray weakness. “They always ask for forgiveness and apologize. In the media, they begin answers with ‘Israel is not perfect.’ Do you ever hear Palestinians saying they’re not perfect?” she asks.
One of the most important lessons she teaches her students is to challenge lies when they appear in the media. “If interviewers say something that’s not true, you must challenge them because if you don’t, then the lies become the reality,” she says.
Rosenstein has developed dozens of workshops and her multimedia presentations instruct leaders to prepare their messages, connect with the audience, and speak with impact. Rosenstein has traveled all over the world, training over 1,500 students to become better communicators. Her diverse clientele includes members of the Foreign Ministry, officers in the IDF, Knesset members, and other high-profile officials.
Recently, Rosenstein has begun developing her own striking messages for speakers to impart. “I realized that many Israeli and American leaders don’t really know all the content,” she says. “They just don’t have all the facts at their fingertips when they give interviews.” Crafting the right messages is just a new addition to her already lengthy job description.
Rosenstein doesn’t think of her work as hasbara in fact she’s not fond of the term at all. “It’s not about trying to influence the media,” she explains. “The media already has an agenda. It’s about educating and having an influence on the public. And that’s something Israel is not doing very well, as yet.”
Still, Rosenstein does not despair as she believes Israelis are getting better as they become increasingly aware. “If someone needs help from a psychiatrist, 80 percent of the therapy is saying I need help,” she explains. “In being more effective communicators many Israelis are saying, ‘Okay, I need help.’ So that’s already, in my opinion, 80 percent. You just have to get that additional 20 percent, and that requires awareness and training.”
Getting that 20 percent has become her life’s mission. “I’ve had many jobs in my lifetime, and this is the one that I feel the most satisfied about. I love doing this and I can see the incremental improvements,” Rosenstein says about her nonprofit.
Rosenstein began her career as a computer systems engineer and then subsequently as a computer science teacher. She entered the world of public diplomacy after telling a marketing executive at a technology conference that the speakers were boring and were causing some in the audience to fall asleep. He implored her to train them, and she accepted the challenge. After searching for a consultant, she found Lilyan Wilder, a world-renowned communication expert who counseled thousands of notable speakers, among them Oprah Winfrey, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and President George H.W. Bush.
Wilder became Rosenstein’s mentor and taught her how to train leaders effectively. Together, they traveled the world conducting training sessions for the business and marketing world. Yet Wilder and Rosenstein’s shared passion was Israel. Rosenstein recounts that Wilder would marvel at Israel’s innovations and technology but was dismayed by Israel’s lack of communication skills and its inability to get its messages across. Before she passed away, Wilder asked Rosenstein to continue her work in equipping leaders with the necessary skills to positively represent Israel to the world. Rosenstein founded a center, named it after Wilder, and began to expand her training.
Rosenstein quickly realized she wanted to infuse positivity into her work. “You only hear the negative things today. The only thing that is known about Israel is the conflict and the false accusations,” she says. Rosenstein explains that individuals shouldn’t only appear in the media after a terror attack but during positive occurrences as well.
Rosenstein believes she has made a significant impact on many people and hopes to continue her work for a long time to come.
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What’s the general mission statement of the Lilyan Wilder Center?
It’s really to work with Israelis and those who speak on behalf of Israel and Jewish causes to be better communicators. To tell their story properly and to get their message across in an impactful way.
How can Israelis become more effective communicators?
The most important thing is to prepare the messages, know the audience, and have talking points and sound bites that are memorable. You need to prepare and work at it. And speak from an offensive position, not a defensive one.
What was the best advice Lilyan Wilder gave you?
The best advice? To be real when you’re speaking. To be yourself and speak from the heart.
What is the Lilyan Wilder methodology?
It’s seven steps to getting your message across. Her methodology was to create three-dimensional speakers. The three dimensions are the voice from your body, the words from your brain, and the convictions from your heart and soul.
Who is currently the best speaker on behalf of Israel in your opinion?
PM Benjamin Netanyahu. He has a great voice and if you listen to his speeches, you can hear how he uses all of the creative techniques to make the speech interesting. He speaks about history, literature, and quotes the Bible. And he’s real. He also doesn’t use the teleprompter which we are against because it’s a barrier between the speaker and the audience.
Are you personally involved with the training in your center?
Yes, I’m one of the main trainers. We have three trainers now. We are very small.
What kind of background do trainers need?
They need to be smart, understand communication, and be very dedicated to Israel. They also need to be concerned about the situation that Israel is facing.
What makes your center unique?
I don’t know of any other charitable organization that provides this service. I’m very proud of the students that I trained. I made them aware of how to improve their messaging, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work.