The Summit makes for one hell of an interesting week
Prime Minister Patrick Manning will have many publics to satisfy this week as he plays host to 34 nation states representing the 84 million people that call the Western hemisphere their home.
That’s a big number and a tall order.
And it is going to take effective, skilled PR experts to break down the big geo-political messages in a way that makes sense to the 1.3 million people that Mr Manning governs. Several of the vox populi conducted this weekend by the 3 local dailies showed a shift in opinion with almost 65 per cent of those interviewed saying that Trinidad and Tobago could benefit from the Summit.
The shift is important since as a public, we have had an impassioned almost knee-jerk negative reaction to hosting the global meeting whose total cost and objectives had remained undefined. The shift happened only when the central role of the Summit in improving civil society, creating business opportunities and even raising the living standards began to be properly and less painfully communicated.
There will be many complex messages from the global meeting and Mr Manning’s PR team will have to convey the information with the right context and in the right language. This will not be an easy task.
Already there are spoilers.
Hugo Chavez has already positioned himself as the voice to take on the Cuba issue. Many are betting that the Venezuelan President will perform all kinds of pirouettes to grab the attention of the media and the world. Then there is the man himself, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the almost God-like reverence that follows the US President and his wife, Michelle, who attracts as much attention with her polished image and her people charm as her husband does. President Lula of Brazil too is known for colourful language and his love of the limelight. His remarks at the G 20 Summit in London about blond haired, blue-eyed men creating the mess the world now finds itself in found lots of traction in the international press.
Despite the big personalities , the Trinidad Summit represents a real chance for leaders of the Americas to communicate and engage in substantive discussion in ways that only face to face interactions can permit.
There are big issues on the table: the lack of a special envoy to the Americas, the 11 undocumented workers in the US and their path to legalistion, a cheaper and more environmentally cleaner ethanol for the US that Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean can help produce, and the impact of the global meltdown on the developing nation states that comprise the Americas.
This is Mr Manning’s time to shine and our country to put its best foot forward. It will be riveting to see how the Prime Minister distills the messages over the next week and what role the local media plays in communicating and shaping those messages.
One thing is for sure, this is going to be one hell of an interesting week for PR.