WASHINGTON: The eruption of war in Iraq last week set in motion a massive global PR network, cultivated by the Bush administration during the months-long buildup of forces.
The network is intended not only to disseminate, but also to dominate news of the conflict around the world.
Before the attacks began, Suzy DeFrancis, deputy assistant to President Bush for communications, outlined the daily media relations hand-off that was about to begin.
"When Americans wake up in the morning, they will first hear from the (Persian Gulf) region, maybe from General Tommy Franks," she said. "Then later in the day, they'll hear from the Pentagon, then the State Department, then later on the White House will brief."
Before anyone goes on air, however, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will set the day's message with an early-morning conference call to British counterpart Alastair Campbell, White House communications director Dan Bartlett, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke, and White House Office of Global Communication (OGC) director Tucker Eskew - a routine that mirrors procedure during the conflict in Afghanistan.
The OGC, an office born out of post-September-11 efforts to combat anti-American news stories emerging from Arab countries, will be key in keeping all US spokespeople on message. Each night, US embassies around the world, along with all federal departments in DC, will receive a "Global Messenger" e-mail containing talking points and ready-to-use quotes.
While an obvious benefit to having communicators spread across time zones is the ability to dominate the 24-hour news cycle, DeFrancis said the White House would enforce clear jurisdictions between departments.
For example, "this being a military conflict, operational questions will be handled from the Pentagon," she said.
In a dramatic shift from past conflicts, administration officials have made it clear they'll rely on independent journalists, "embedded" by the Pentagon with military units, to act as one of their most reliable PR vehicles.
"That's the first time it's ever been done," DeFrancis offered.