CHARLOTTE IN WONDERLAND
“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”1
—Alice in Wonderland
CHARLOTTE BEERS MADE THE CLASSIC ADVERTISING ROOKIE mistake of giving her client what he wanted rather than what he needed. And despite her illustrious Madison Avenue career, she was a rookie inside the Beltway, trying to reconcile the mandate Secretary of State Colin Powell had given her with the intricate web of overlapping “communications offices” that existed not only within the State Department, but across the administration. For example, early every morning she sat in on conference calls where the president’s communications director, Karen Hughes, led State and Defense Department staffers in hammering out the “message of the day” and plotting political strategy. Instead of setting strategic direction, Beers found herself running to jump on a train that was already chugging away from the station.
Her second major shock was that, even assuming she knew what she wanted to say—and she was working day and night toward that goal—she didn’t have the necessary human or media channels to deliver it. “It was simply shocking how little equipment we had, had we agreed on a message to get the word out,” she later observed, “and there was a complete dearth of training.”2
None of that would have come as a surprise to old foreign service hands. “At the end of the Cold War, we unilaterally disarmed our public diplomacy apparatus,” former ambassador Edward P. Djerejian