KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen used to call San Francisco "Baghdad by the Bay." Now San Francisco PR veteran Jeff Raleigh is finding himself a bit closer to the real Baghdad.
Since September, Raleigh has been serving as a senior public affairs counselor at the US embassy in Kabul. He oversees strategy and tactics for a number of communications programs for the embassy, including election events, counter-narcotics programs, and demobilization initiatives.
In May 2003, Raleigh and Mike Brown opened Brown & Raleigh, a communications consultancy in San Francisco. Raleigh previously worked at Hill & Knowlton for 19 years.
Thanks to a friend who suggested Raleigh for the public affairs job, he will spend the next 10 months in the Middle East.
"I remember seeing a woman jump out of the burning World Trade Center's 100th floor on 9/11," Raleigh, in an e-mail interview, said of his decision to take the job. "She faced either burning or falling 100 stories to her death. I don't want my daughters, or anyone else's daughter or son, ever to make that choice."
Raleigh, who reports to ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, is part of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Group. This group is made up of 15 senior execs from the private sector who advise the ambassador on reconstruction efforts. Raleigh most recently worked on plans to accommodate the approximately 1,000 journalists who were anticipated to cover the October 9 election.
"We [can] help the Afghan people build a stable democracy in a region that has known virtually nothing but war and destruction for many years," Raleigh said. "Communications is a critical part of winning the war against an enemy that uses the news media around the world as a conduit for its messages."
Raleigh said he has two other people on his team, and they all work 15- to 18-hour days. The amount of work his team and others are dedicating makes anything he has experienced in the agency or corporate world pale in comparison, Raleigh said.