One of our previous posts, "How the Air Force Goes About Blogging", talked about how social media is being used to engage with airmen as well as the general public of America. America is not the only one embracing the different applications and media that are widely available on the Internet. Israel went ahead and held a news conference via Twitter to address questions thrown at them by the general public.
The Israel Defense Forces, recognizing that success in neutralizing the Hamas movement in Gaza is as much a public relations challenge as a military one, has enlisted an arsenal of Internet tools to take their message directly to a global audience. There is a military channel on the video-sharing site YouTube where you can watch suspected Hamas sites being obliterated by ordnance; blogs that spread the message of the foreign affairs ministry; and in the newest wrinkle, a news conference conducted through the microblogging service Twitter.Click here to see a sample of the questions raised and the answers that followed.
"Since the definition of war has changed, the definition of public diplomacy has to change as well," said David Saranga, the head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York, which conducted the Twitter news conference on Tuesday. Some, including the MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, mocked the idea of a government spokesman addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in tweets barely a sentence long. "The Israeli government is trying to explain a conflict that people write books about, a conflict that newspaper writers struggle to explain in 2,000 words, in 140 characters at a time," she marveled.
Mr. Saranga said Tuesday's online dialogue, which was open for questions from anyone with a Twitter account, was "the first governmental press conference ever held on Twitter." And he made no apologies for using common text-messaging abbreviations — 2 for to, 4 for for, and r for are, and other shorthand like civ for civilian — in his answers. "I speak to every demographic in a language he understands," he said. "If someone only speaks Spanish, I speak in Spanish; if someone is using a platform like Twitter, I want to tweet."