Charm Offensive: Mohammed Bin Salman and Transforming the Middle East

Riding in a Boeing 747 with the words “God Bless You” embellished in both English and Arabic on the plane’s belly, the then 32-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) embarked on a charm offensive to sell an audacious plan to modernize Saudi Arabia.

Eyeing support for a putative revolution that could transform Saudi Arabia into a force for global progress, MBS employed some exceptional public relations strategies to achieve the goal. These strategies are as follows;

Key PR strategies in MBS’s charm offensive

#1. Securing support from President Trump’s administration

Given the highly progressive vision that sought to establish a $2 trillion wealth fund invested locally and internationally, bin Salman secured some important support from President Trump’s administration.

Pursuing a tighter alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States, Trump’s administration was eager to work with Bin Salman to achieve mutually beneficial objectives in the middle east. At the same time, MBS’s charm offensive shored up support and investment from the most powerful economy on various social-economic aspects of Saudi Arabia.

Securing support from the American administration was a great public relation win for MBS. Worth noting, American allies would welcome the idea of working with Saudi Arabia, increasing the chances of its vision 2030. What’s more, securing support from Trump’s administration sowed great relations between the two countries, improving the kingdom’s perceptions among American investors.

#2. Meetings with renowned business moguls

Wearing blazers and collar shirts—a change from the full regalia–MBS met leading business magnates in a highly relatable manner, highlighting the importance of being approachable by entrepreneurs. In Manhattan, for instance, MBS accompanied the city’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to Starbucks wearing a shirt that was open to the collar and a blazer. Other business leaders that MBS met in a publicized manner and a suit included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.

Through the meetings and attire selected, the crown prince managed to communicate flexibility and modernity in the Saudi Arabia administration. At the same time, the PR strategy adopted succeeded in drawing attention to the possible partnerships that key entrepreneurs would engage in. The effect was increased interest in different reforms within Saudi Arabia.

#3. Supporting Rights of the Jewish Nation 

Seeking to form an alliance with Israel, bin Salman used positive language towards Israel. More specifically, the crown prince confirmed that Jews and any other group of people have a right to a state within their ancestral homeland. |

With the new moderate position towards Israel, bin Salman sought to achieve several public relations front objectives. The first goal was to shed the negative tag resulting from terrorism. The globe was irked by bin Laden’s (a hardline Saudi Arabian) activities. However, with bin Salman supporting Israel, Saudi Arabia would play an important role in supporting global efforts to stabilize the middle east.

The second goal was to secure deals that would empower the country’s institutions like the military. Allying with the United States, Saudi Arabia’s public relations efforts would open opportunities for the state to cooperate with American allies, furthering its advancements on different fronts.

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