Bukele tweets a paid advertisement as real news coverage
This is a story about how the Bukele government polishes its image through branding and social media. What appears as a news story about the success of the government in handling the pandemic, is actually just a paid advertisement with material from a branding consultant used by this media-conscious administration.
On November 28, Nayib Bukele tweeted:
|"The county in the region which best dealt with the pandemic"|
Reopening to tourism: how El Salvador is preparing, the country that best dealt with the pandemic in the region:
The Central American country achieved a world seal as a safe destination in the new normal. In addition, the City Nation Place forum evaluated it as the country with the best attention to the pandemic in Latin America
Bukele also featured this article on his Facebook page, generating more than 3000 comments and 3500 shares.
The article in Infobae centers on two assertions. First, that El Salvador was "awarded" the "Safe Travels" seal from the World Travel and Tourism Council ("WTTC"). But this is misleading at best. The Safe Travels seal is available to any country or travel business which applies to participate and agrees to adhere to a set of COVID-19 safety protocols for safe travel. The WTTC does not award, inspect or certify applicants. The WTTC says so specifically in its Safe Travels Stamp Guide:
The Safe Travels stamp is based on self-assessment and it is not a certification. Countries, destination authorities and companies using the stamp have confirmed that they have implemented, and will ensure ongoing compliance with, the Safe Travels protocols and ICAO ‘Takeoff’ guidelines.
The WTTC is not a public health, medical or scientific organization, so the value of the seal is somewhat limited. Within Central America, the WTTC also lists Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica as other destinations using the Safe Travels Seal.
The Infobae article goes on to say that El Salvador was recognized for its achievements at a world forum of City Nation Place. But what is City Nation Place? It is an event organizer for those who are involved in "place branding." It helps people who want to promote the image of their city, nation or place. In other words, it organize events for public relations professionals who are working to uplift the image of locations in the world wanting to attract tourism.
According to the article, the CEO de Bloom Consulting, José Torres, told a recent world forum of City Nation Place that El Salvador found itself as the country which had best managed the pandemic in Latin America. But what is Bloom Consulting? It is a public relations firm whose specialty is "country branding and place branding." Bloom Consulting lists as one of its clients, the government of El Salvador.
So that headline which Bukele tweeted out, "the country in the region which best dealt with the pandemic," is actually just a quote from the country's paid branding consultant at an event for other country branding consultants.
That advertisement gets even more play as the Ministry of Health retweets Nayib Bukele's original tweet and then adds "We confront and we continue fighting against a pandemic which has affected all the world. Despite that and with your support President @NayibBukele, we have applied all the strategies and today we are an international reference point."
The next day, the Salvadoran government's new periodical, Diario El Salvador, went on to report the Infobae article as news, labelling Infobae an "international news agency," but neglecting to point out that the article was actually paid advertising by the Salvadoran government.
And that is how you take a quote from your branding consultant, and a paid "advertorial" and generate fake headlines, and tweets, and more coverage. It is an example of how politicians can take advantage of non-critical readers who don't have the time or the interest I had to track down all the references and sources and evaluate the complete lack of substance in this presidential tweet.