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Need of the hour: Rebuilding Sri Lanka’s image professionally

21 September 2015 06:57 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka unjustifiably retained US PR and lobbying firms in the post-2009 period at a massive cost to the country. This stands out as a gigantic fraud considering that the war had ended and there was no need for such expensive PR exercises.

What this exercise also reveals is that Sri Lanka’s Embassy in Washington DC with no communications plans or effective strategies in place, had miserably failed to project and protect the image of the country.
The Embassy was staffed with incompetent relatives and friends of the former regime, and had no competent professionals, who understood image building and countering misinformation.

 

" The Presidential election of January 2015 began a new chapter in our international relations. However, Sri Lanka is yet to seize the opportunity to get the message across to the world, through media. This is particularly true of the US where no positive editorials or columns have been published on the changes in the country."

 
Greedy eyes were looking on this evolving scenario, and like scavenging vultures, swooped on the opportunity to make millions.

During the war, in the face of an intense misinformation campaign overseas by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), it was only the late Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar who realised the importance of projecting a positive image of the country and countering the misinformation campaign of the LTTE.

He selected media professionals to handle communications in selected embassies, as he believed “Media better understand the media”.

He knew that the media properly handled through strategic communications plans and effective messaging, can play a pivotal role in changing perceptions in society. This fundamental truth is at the core of image rebuilding.

The Presidential election of January 2015 began a new chapter in our international relations. However, Sri Lanka is yet to seize the opportunity to get the message across to the world, through media. This is particularly true of the US where no positive editorials or columns have been published on the changes in the country.

 

"We need the services of a competent Media and PR person to handle media relations"



Well, these things don’t happen automatically. Professional image builders understand that media has to be cultivated. In the US it is equally important to cover Congress, the Senate and the State Department, and other influential and opinion-making institutions. Sadly, these functions too are neglected because the so called ‘Ministers’ in the Embassy have no insightful understanding of their job functions.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would understand this situation better than his colleagues, for he has visited the US many times and also related to Congress and the media, and knows the value of positive media attention in engaging policymakers.

A look at the Sri Lanka Embassy website shows there are only Chiefs and no Indians. Everybody is a ‘Minister’.
One person is Political and Media Minister!

How is one person able to properly handle two such vital subjects?
This is probably why media has not been given the prominence it needs. The designation of Minister is only given to a very senior Diplomat. There is no justification to staff the Embassy with incompetent ‘Ministers’ who are obviously making no impact, but incurring major expenses, as the position of ‘Minister’ carries a high salary along with many perks.

We need the services of a competent Media and PR person to handle media relations, media advocacy and strategic communications. Time is of the essence and we need to rev up our media efforts to rebuild Sri Lanka’s image in the US - which is vital for our development efforts in the coming days.

We would need the services of a person with extensive experience and skill to make a success of rebuilding the country’s image; not these clueless US companies who are merely taking us to the cleaners, making big bucks at the expense of Sri Lanka’s taxpayers.

Sri Lanka’s Embassies need staff familiar with, and a passion for communications work. This is a vital area of work for Diplomatic Missions in strategically important countries, where we need to build mutually beneficial relationships with organizations and the public.

The fervent hope of all who care for Sri Lanka’s international image is that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Samaraweera will give this matter serious consideration and appoint competent people to our Missions for effective Media and PR work that will rebuild our tarnished image.
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