Merkel vs. Trump at G7: How One Image Can Distort the Bigger Picture

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Checking my Twitter feed this gloomy, rainy morning in Chicago, and the image noted below grabbed my attention.

Well, obviously.

And, as you would expect, this image has been viewed, discussed, tweeted and re-tweeted who knows how many millions of times in the hours since it surfaced last night. Without question, the image and the global scenario behind it will continue to inspire commentary for a few days and provide fodder for political and entertainment commentators.

Predictably, this image from the G7 Summit has sparked lots of commentary, from serious to humorous. What’s yours?

You know who the key people are — world leaders at the G7 Summit in Quebec.  So, I won’t bother to identify them.

But as noted in this report from The Hill, the so-called Twittersphere has captured some of the witticisms communicated by those amused, enraptured, bewildered or enthused by this single image, shared on Instagram by the woman in the light blue jacket who’s postured somewhat defiantly while being surrounded by men.

(If we did not know the subjects in the photo, it’s still a rather compelling image, I think.)

What’s underscored, however: A provocative image like this one — distributed instantly and available to billions around the world — has the ability to inform and inspire relevant debate, yet it also has the ability to deflate and discount the importance of the subject.

How many who view the G7 Summit image will remember it primarily for its immediate initial “shock value,” showing obvious disharmony among two world leaders, rather than the more serious, long-term ramifications of economic discord among the United States and its strongest allies, including our neighbor to the north?

Within the next few minutes, I’ll click on the “publish” button to share this post with the world.  On the other side of the world, two leaders will meet Tuesday at what assuredly will be another monumental summit gathering, but with much higher stakes — demilitarizing a part of the world that has been technically at war for some 70 years.

Yes, there will be attention-grabbing images from the meetings in Singapore shared early and often. Hopefully, the true substance of the outcome will transcend the short-term impact derived from a single static depiction of just one occurrence that took place.

North Korea Has Golden Public Relations Opportunity

News out of Pyongyang this past weekend, was, by all accounts, festive.  On Sunday, the secretive state of North Korea held a series of very public parades and other events to honor the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, which rules Communist nation.

But beyond the spectacle created by massive numbers of civilian performers in colorful costumes, soldiers marching in perfect goose step fashion and trucks pulling some nasty-looking missiles, the real purpose for the celebration was to introduce the next leader/dictator/ruler of the nation to the North Korean people and the world.

Standing on the official rostrum was a chubby guy named Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of longtime North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il, who’s reportedly in poor health.


The chubby guy in the dark suit can reinvent North Korea with some solid, strategic public relations counsel.


If the experts are correct, Un is being groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and take command of the nation sometime down the line.  When that happens, the rogue nation has an ideal opportunity to shift world perception: North Korea can reinvent itself from being a repressive, war-mongering place that dabbles in nuclear armaments and stifles free-thinking of any kind to an emerging democracy destined to take its place in the brave new world.

Well, emerging as a democracy may take some doing.  But North Korea can build better relationships with its neighbors and the rest of the world if it follows some solid, fundamental public relations principles.

Not much chance that happening under the current government — and calling it a government is a misnomer — but perhaps Un can lead the country down a new path to peace, prosperity and the free exchange of information and ideas.  Here are some suggestions, based on the four key steps in developing a sound public relations plan.

  1. Define the threat or opportunity. Well, North Korea has been threatening its neighbor to the south for a long time.  The first recommendation I’d give to Un is to stop threatening to obliterate the folks in South Korea.  Take the opportunity to in essence, make love, not war.
  2. Conduct research. All PR plans are guided by research. Perhaps Un and his team can conduct some primary research to gain insight into why the nation is so reviled around the most parts of their hemisphere.  And, our hemisphere, too, I would think. I recommend against polling the North Korean people because they all would have the same responses.
  3. Execute communications plan. Note to Un: “Execute” means carry out your plan, that is communicate why North Korea is a place on the rebound from six decades of isolation, massive human rights violations and other unsavory practices.  Don’t take “execute” literally here dude.  And, one more thing: What you guys practice is called “propaganda,” and it’s not the same as “communications.”  Seek dialogue.  Invite differing opinions. Foster open communications.  If someone has an opinion contrary to the party line, listen; don’t put them jail.
  4. Revisit and make revisions. I know.  In places like North Korea, change doesn’t come too often.  But a guiding principle of effective public relations is to modify and adapt a program. Un will have the ultimate word, so he can get this done.

I’m not sure North Korea has the resources at the moment to launch an effective public relations program. According to a post last year on the PRoper Learning blog, the nation has a one-way policy in terms of freedom of speech. You guessed it: Pro government only.

But how knows?  Perhaps there’s an opportunity for an enterprising public relations firm to make a business pitch at the right time.  A Google search of “public relations firms in North Korea” did not yield a single agency or consultancy.