The death of Osama bin Laden is unlikely to mark the end of Al Qaeda or its throwback version of militant Islam.
But there’s a real opportunity now. The Arab Spring and the ouster of several dictators Bin Laden and his ilk despised but could not dispose of, means that new, moderate elements in these societies have a chance.
Alas, so do other fringe elements.
The PR war for the hearts and minds of the Arab Street is at a critical juncture. The key success factor will be the articulation of a clear, coherent vision that can be spread far and wide.
A cursory look at the last 100-ish years of Western society’s PR campaigns reveals a number of failures but some real victories too
(think about the role Radio Free Europe played in the demise of the Eastern Bloc). Whatever resources the West can muster to help moderate elements in the Arab world get their message out must be deployed. This is not a time for triumphalism or a paterlistic approach. It is, rather, the time to humbly offer real communications expertise to those moderate forces that have thus far failed at disseminating a salient and concise message based on hope, not hate.
In this battle with rather stark alternatives, PR matters more than ever.