Monday, April 16, 2007

Rebuilding Brand America 

Dick Martin, the author of Tough Calls, one of the best books I've read on PR in years, has a new book out called Rebuilding Brand America. This new work is an in-depth study of Anti-American feelings about the globe and what the US government and business need to do to turn longstanding negatives around. Martin appears to have read everything and talked to most people concerned with the issue. His book is an in-depth discussion of sources and roots of the problem, the feeble attempts of the US government to address it and where business and government should be going.

The book is pragmatic with specific remedies. My sagging feeling, as I read his prescriptions, was that it made too much sense. Of course, what he recommends should be done, but chances of it happening are not great. The US government is too chaotic to coordinate in ways he calls for and CEOs of multinationals appear to consider themselves more as citizens of the world than citizens of any one country. This doesn't mean that what he calls for can never happen. The pessimist in me feels the odds are steep. Certainly the present administration in the White House is incapable of doing anything Martin suggests. It is barely functioning as it is. His work is really targeted at the next administration and current business leaders.

I just wish my nagging feeling about business would go away but it doesn't. After listening to leading CEOs of how they operate globally, it is not out of the question that great American businesses may depart the country someday. That time will come when multinationals feel it is to their advantage to do so. Or, if they don't leave the country legally, their production will have left the country and economic power with it. This is far along already. So, I don't see American business cooperating with American government to turn around Anti-American feelings. I see American business becoming exactly what he describes -- global and local -- to the point where it no longer appears American and frankly, that's preferable. It's up to the US government to catch up, which it is isn't doing.

Martin makes abundantly clear that what America faces isn't a communications problem alone. All the pro-American advertising and publicity campaigns that one could buy won't turn around the opposition. What needs to happen is more fundamental. However, surveying the present candidates for the White House, I wonder if any of them is willing or able to take up the challenge.


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