Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pitch Meeting

Anthony Pratkanis appeared at the USC Center for Public Diplomacy today and shared in the frustration of experts facing the current endgame being played out in the information war in Iraq. Although it may not be as disastrous as the actual war being fought with bombs and bullets, the campaign for Iraqi hearts and minds has also been doomed by administration planners from the start. By drawing on the lessons of World War II, Pratkanis argues that more recent models from "advertising," "public relations," and "soft power" will inevitably fail to effect long term social influence, because these approaches don't indicate any engagement with analyzing the enemy's purpose and the related history of successful and unsuccessful messages in a given rhetorical context. Apparently, administration officials may finally be listening to advice from social scientists like Pratkanis rather than depending on off-the-shelf products from Beltway political consulting firms (The Lincoln Group, The Rendon Group, etc.) or advertising and public relations agencies who have transitioned to social marketing (with the Brand America campaign of former Undersecretary Charlotte Beers as the classic campaign).

Of course, I liked the fact that Pratkanis cited the lessons of Aristotle and the Sophists. Unfortunately, I was less than crazy about the prepackaged graphic elements of his PowerPoint presentation, which undercut his argument about the importance of thinking outside the corporate box.

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