‘Understand your audience and you will understand the impact of your message on each follower in your social media networks.’
Headlines have been filled up with stories about ISIS and its progress across Iraq and Syria in past few months. The systematic cruelty they operate with, fearless development of their strategies and support they gained in eyes of many citizens across the world have all contributed to the media attention they gained. Nonetheless, what has fascinated and surprised me personally, have been their rather methodical approach to public relations, moreover, and an innovative, modern and progressive strategy to address wider publics worldwide. For instance, according to The New York Times, ISIS and their followers tweet almost hundred thousand times a day. The internet has become a borderless platform to explore. As many times compared, ISIS seems to be miles ahead from ideologically similar terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, their high-definition video shows, weekly magazine in several languages and a smart phone application bombard the global public on daily basis. Yet the question to ask is, what has made particularly ISIS images and information so powerful that they gain attention and many times the support of the public.
Firstly, while Al-Qaeda has been active in media for many years, on the internet is has always chosen anonymous, respectively indirect approach to propaganda. On the contrary, ISIS seems to strategically present itself as highly organised, hi-tech and modern organisation behind the same traditional values. In many ways, it seems that ‘going fearlessly public’ and drawing controversy and attention to its activities has paid off. Not only that mass media compete to publish on the hot topic, but also choosing the communication channels of youth, many young people see ISIS as an attractive phenomenon.
One does not need to look deeply into their strategy to see their understanding of the audiences. The mobile application for latest updates (despite the fact it has been banned, its popularity was unexpectedly high); regular videos published on various platforms – many in English to appeal Western publics etc.
Secondly, if the ISIS seemed to be systematic in its public relations in its beginnings, one should not be surprised by founding Al-Hayat Media Center, a new media producer organisation, which since last May has brought their media campaign to professional level. “The new media branch follows ISIS’s general media strategy of distributin
g diverse materials in several languages, including new videos and subtitles for existing videos, and also articles, news reports, and translated jihadi materials,” reported MEMRI.
In recent years, ICT technologies have massively progressed and have brought radio, TV, magazines and newspapers as well as social media to our day-to-day lives, into every computer and phone we possess. Hence, one could argue that usage of these outlets by organisations like ISIS has been rather inevitable and natural progress in their quest to win hearts and minds of the public. Yet, that has become the greatest danger posed by them. Governments’ inability to control the flow of information as well as internet itself has given them a great opportunity to exploit these platforms and pursue their own goals particularly through them. And so the fight against such as ISIS is, has become a war on two fronts – not only a conventional one but also in the cyberspace. Numerous attempts to ban various social accounts owned by ISIS, identify ISIS supporters online or rage anti-ISIS hash tag war (#no2ISIS) have earned some support, yet they have not toppled sophisticated public campaign by ISIS PR Team and their supporters.
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