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  History's Biggest Image Building Campaign! (By: Zeeshan ul Rub Jaffri)

Although many are terming it a mere change of skin-color and accent, I believe that Obama replacing Bush is historys biggest image building campaign, aimed at projecting a positive and progressive face of America not only to the world but to the American public who were otherwise in grip of grave pessimism and disbelief about an America which once was a symbol of liberties, openness and accommodation of all kind of views and ideas.

In last eight years, under the Bushs hawkish regime, United States came out to be the biggest loser in terms of its foreign, defence, economic and social policies. Look at it from worlds point of view, America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and unlike its claim of bringing peace, stability and prosperity to these nations brought unending killings and sufferings to already oppressed people.

Who was the President during this era? Bush. Who was responsible for all these failures? Of course Bush. So this was the message that was picked, promoted and established by American Establishment to regain its lost glory and image among the nations including Americans. Bush was used as an idiotic instrument by American establishment to embark upon its worldwide adventures but in the end when everything turned out against their plans, they held Bush responsible for all ill policies and decisions and embarked upon historys biggest image building campaign to rebuild Americas image not only in America but worldwide.

Choosing a black man with the slogan of change is reflective of American Establishments realization of grave ground realities and promoting a black man for Americas presidency was the real big maneuver of this campaign.

So what has America achieved out of this well planned Public Relations activity? Answer of this question requires a simple SWOT analysis and then taking into account the tactics, stunts and most important the obvious and subliminal messages used throughout the campaign. Since beginning of his election campaign, Obama upheld the slogan of change, a change which would undo all the wrongs committed by Bush regime and bring back the lost values of liberties, freedom and mutual respect to America.

Lets take an account of Americas failures (weaknesses). Today, world knows an America that failed to prove the reasons or allegations behind its off-shore adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan, it failed to win the hearts and minds of 1.25 billion Muslims across the world, it failed to bring peace and stability in the world, it wasted around 1 trillion dollars in off-shore adventurism, it failed to secure its interest in the world, it failed to fulfill its people basic needs of education, health, employment and social security, it failed to fulfill its duty to follow the Kyoto protocols as biggest polluter of the world, instead it advocated and followed policies that not only caused historys biggest financial recession but also earned unprecedented humiliation, criticism and hatred to the America.

So what was the strength and the opportunities available to America after unending list of failures? Obama was chosen as the biggest strength and American Elections were made the best of available opportunities.

Take a look at Obamas speeches, he criticized Bush regimes policies and repeated the idea of a New America. Unlike Bush who was not even aware of basic grammar of his native language, Obama proved to be an excellent orator and his long yet spontaneous and mindful speeches not only energized the badly disappointed American voters but also impressed the worldwide audience.

Americans who were sick (and to some extent accustomed) of Bushs irrational yet grammatically wrong and mindless rhetoric were surprisingly happy to have found a man who was not only an author of two books and a part time professor but was clear in his thoughts and also able to communicate them in a dignified manner. After the slogan of change and New America, it was second most powerful tactic whose impact had been felt during the campaign.

Declaring the Iraq invasion a war of no reasons but politics earned him unprecedented support by American masses that came to know that their government had wasted around 1 trillion dollars on off shore adventurism that only brought hatred, insecurity and worst financial recession to Americans. He announced that under his rule American troops would be withdrawn from Iraq respectfully. By using Obama, American establishment not only pave the way for a safe exit from Iraqi quagmire but also managed to avert the expected humiliation that was to be the part of unsuccessful trillion dollar adventure.

Since it would be a withdrawal of New and changed America that too under Obamas administration, so no one would question the reasons of invasion and account of results. American establishment had realized that after all that they lost in last 10 years it was a life time opportunity for America to change its strategy on almost all the domestic and foreign issues. Obama used old rhetoric against Iran but at the same time showed his resolve to engage everyone in meaningful diplomacy.

To start with, Obama announced his presidential bid on the steps of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln spent a large part of his political career symbolizing his aspirations. Obama adapted very aggressive yet mindful tone throughout his election campaign especially during his presidential debates.

At an occasion he said that "We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come". He repeated the words of former president John F Kennedy: "The world is changing. The old ways will not do. It is time for a new generation of leadership." He aligned all his speeches with the values and policies followed by elders of his nation. In almost every public appearance, Obama constantly referred to Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King to remind Americans that he will follow the foot prints of their ancestors who built a great America.

Having followed a carefully planned PR and Image Building Plan Obama kept on going with PR stunts such as appearing in a famous yet low-priced caf. Arriving Washington in a whistle-stop train tracking Abraham Lincoln's historic route.

It was ensured that world see a celebratory crowd braving subfreezing weather to salute Obama along his train journey from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. The trip included a stop in Delaware to pick up Vice President-elect Joe Biden and a stop in Baltimore for a speech in which he pleaded "let us seek together a better life in our time." During this train journey Biden said that "Folks this is more than an ordinary train ride. This is a new beginning."

President-elect was shown on television dropping his children to schools, which was interpreted by media that he would give priority to education for nations children. He was also shown painting walls of a school, yet another sign of his commitment to education and social security for Americans. All these PR stunts were adding more and more value to Mr. Obamas personality.

After all the Change and New America rhetoric, with one hand on Abraham Lincoln's inaugural Bible, the 47-year-old son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, Obama, the first-term senator with little experience of national and international level, ultimately managed to create history by pledging the Oath of Office before a hopeful nation and a global audience of billions becoming the first black-American and 44th American president.

Billions of people watched the black person taking control of worlds most powerful nation and world media showed it like a religious duty and left millions of people in awe and tears surely with deep respect for American nation for having elected a black president. What more would one like from elections which were made the biggest Image Building campaign of the history?

Media wrote analysis such as: In a moment of genuine historical significance, Barack Obama was sworn in as the first black President of the United States today. Or President Obama invoked the struggle and sacrifice of America's pioneers as he vowed to meet the challenges that now face him.

Shortly after being sworn in as the first black president of the United States, Obama himself said that in his election, America had chosen "hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord".

I met hundred of people in Karachi alone, who were not tired of discussing each and every minor detail of Obamas greatness and Americans open mindedness for having elected the black president. Newspapers and televisions were full of praising views and analysis about a new America under great leadership of Obama. What else does one want out of a calculated Image Building Campaign?

Thats true that Pentagons billions-dollar project to win the hearts and minds of Muslims across the world failed miserably during the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions. Embedded journalists in Iraq, fake letters from US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and fake stories and editorials from pseudo intellectuals from Muslim world could not work for Pentagons objective but this election campaign has been a mega success in terms of forming positive opinions about American government and nation and to some extent has given a new lease of life to America.

Someone once said that Image building is good if it reflects reality. In Obamas case Americans seems to have taken unprecedented advantage of the available opportunity by turning a bad-as-pig image into a New America with its values and glory. Currently America is in a sea of problems and the positive image earned by promoting a black man with a vision of change, can only be sustained by some real hard actions which would demonstrate that a journey towards new America has begun in reality.

According to the Public Relations rules, one can create a positive image of a product, service, corporate or personality by PR stunts and Media support and persuade masses to buy our argument or advocacy once, but, if the promoted product, service, corporate or personality doesnt maintain the reputation by keeping the same quality as promised in the message campaign, the product would fail to survive even for few weeks.

American establishment should be happy to achieve its Image building objectives, but it must not forget the basic principles of Public Relations. A reputation built in years can fall like a house of cards in the times of crucial decision-making moments.

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