Iraqi Electricity Problems + Katie Couric = Public Relations Something, Something, Something
For nearly a decade now, Iraq has struggled with intermittent electricity problems. Some folks receive 10 hours of power a day, some 4, and some have other varied experiences in between. This isn’t a new story and there doesn’t seem to be anything new to report – but that’s not stopping the Iraqi Electricity Ministry from posting daily reports. And the best way to let Iraqis know about these daily electricity reports is billboards featuring Katie Couric.
The New York Times’ article Putting a Megawatt Smile on a Simmering Problem brought this to my attention. Apparently, the Iraqi Electricity Ministry is an information powerhouse – the Katie Couric billboards are designed to bring attention to a daily 5 minute report, a once a week program that runs longer than that and they’re starting a magazine called People and Power. And this is all to tell the people what, exactly? I’m woefully ignorant about Iraqi power problems, but since the people do receive some power, I can speculate that the problem lies with production and not the infrastructure that delivers the power to homes and businesses as if the problem was infrastructure, then the issue wouldn’t be intermittent – there just wouldn’t be any power at all. Stuff doesn’t work perfectly for four hours a day and then just stop working. So I can’t imagine what information any of these Electricity Ministry outlets actually disseminate to the people or how it could be of any value. Musaab al-Mudarrs is the spokesman for the Electricity Ministry – here’s a quote from the NYTimes.com article:
He said the goal behind the effort was to counter the populace’s perception of the ministry as “only bribes and corruption.”
Huh. Why would Iraqis think that? Oh, because the Electricity Ministry seems to spend as much time on public relations as they do on electricity? Hell, maybe they spend more time on PR – do you really need a daily tv show, a weekly tv show and a magazine to tell people that their power situation still sucks? It’s summer time in Iraq – that means it’s over 100 degrees, so even though I’ve never been there, just trust me – Iraqis are keenly aware that they are only getting four hours a day of air conditioning.
So obviously, putting up billboards of Katie Couric is a great PR move. It makes sense, right? Or no, it’s the opposite of sense. I doubt 50% of Americans could pick Couric out of a line up blonds – what the hell are Iraqis supposed to think when they see her on a billboard? “Some white woman is smiling at me to remind us that we’re low on electricity.” The best part of this whole mess is Kouric didn’t know about the billboards until a reporter told her. She doesn’t seem to care, but I find it hilarious that the Electricity Ministry just plucked her image off the internet and slapped it up all over Iraq. What a strange idea… I guess that when the Electricity Ministry thinks of sound energy policy, images of American news anchors and talk show hosts always dance through their heads, which we know to be a fact, because Laurie Dhue (formerly of FOX News and now with CNN), was their second choice. Maybe a different Ministry agency will use Dhue for another public relations campaign that gives the people information that they already know.