WASHINGTON: A small band of PR and advertising executives are taking America's public diplomacy into their own hands, forming a task force to help US businesses better represent their country overseas.
Keith Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide, is spearheading the Task Force to Mobilize American Business for Public Diplomacy. So far he has gathered marketing mavens such as Jack Leslie, chairman of Interpublic Group's Weber Shandwick, and an experienced public diplomacy professional; Steve Blamer, president of Grey Worldwide; and Tim Love, VP at WPP advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.
Thus far, Reinhard says his group has had no official con-tact with anyone from the US government. A number of members did say, however, that they would eventually like to make the task force a public/private partnership.
Reinhard said his inspiration for forming the group came from data suggesting that much of the foreign world gets its impression of the US from American companies doing business overseas. "While people had a lot of good things to say about American brands and companies, there were still some alarming negatives," he said. "Right now, this is not about making ads or even about making any kind of prepared communications. This is going to be about classic brand work, first understanding the root causes of perception, then modifying whatever behavior needs to be modified."
The group, which has only had a handful of meetings and is still looking to recruit members, hopes to act as a consultant to companies operating overseas, fostering the sharing of data and best practices for cultural sensitivity. The need for stronger public diplomacy was raised again last month in a government report that was very critical of the US' current efforts in this area.