Newspaper article The Canadian Press

White House Veteran Offers Advice on How Trudeau Can Capitalize on US Celebrity

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

White House Veteran Offers Advice on How Trudeau Can Capitalize on US Celebrity

Article excerpt

A White House veteran's advice to PM on US PR


WASHINGTON - A veteran of the Obama White House who specialized in international outreach says Canada's rookie prime minister has an extremely rare opportunity for a foreign leader: the chance to be heard by Americans.

Brett Bruen shared some thoughts in advance of Justin Trudeau's red-carpet visit this week, based on his own career as a U.S. diplomat who until recently was the White House director of global engagement.

He said foreign leaders are forever struggling to get American attention -- for themselves, but more importantly for the priorities that matter to them and their citizens.

''It's incredibly challenging," Bruen said in an interview.

Washington receives a staggering number of high-profile visits -- last year the Chinese president was overshadowed by another guest arriving the same week, Pope Francis.

Bruen said Canada's new leader has an opportunity to be heard amid that noise.

Trudeau has become a minor U.S. celebrity -- with profiles in Vogue magazine, the style and review sections of the New York Times, in the Washington Post this week and CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday. The 60 Minutes piece among other things touched on Trudeau's childhood at the side of his father Pierre Trudeau, his much publicized charity boxing match with Sen. Patrick Brazeau, his government's move to accept more Syrian refugees and the decision to pull fighter jets out of the fight against the Islamic State.

Bruen said Trudeau could capitalize by doing more unconventional media. He suggested reaching Americans who don't follow the news -- in places as unusual as sitcom appearances.

"Establish him as an American celebrity... That's one of the unique opportunities offered by his prime ministership," said Bruen, who left the White House last year and now advises clients at Global Situation Room.

"Here's someone who's young, dynamic, who's piqued the interest certainly of pundits and observers. Now you want to go capture the interest of the man or woman on the street who'll say, 'Yeah, I know Prime Minister Trudeau. When he speaks about immigration issues or climate change or trade, I'm going to pay closer attention, because he's someone that I see regularly. …

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