The Taliban – A Classic 'Bait and Switch' PR Ruse? Or Have They Really Changed?

KABUL, Afghanistan - Aug. 23, 2021 - PRLog -- There's no denying it: when it comes to their PR and reputation, the Taliban have a long way to go. Their hostile take-over of Afghanistan has slammed them unceremoniously under the international spotlight, but this time, it appears they have read a PR book.

Although many are sceptical of their newfound views, they're conducting a PR blitz to communicate and convince international media that they're no longer the extreme Islamist political organisation that brutally captured, tortured, or killed anyone who defies their authority. Whilst men, women and children attempt to flee Afghanistan due to the recent takeover, they are holding press conferences, sitting with female journalists, and attempting to instigate calm across Afghanistan.

It seems impossible that the Taliban could throw off their decades-long status as an evil, fear spreading campaign. What PR Tactics have they employed whilst trying to improve their public image?

They are holding more press conferences then they did 25 years ago after their takeover in 1996. They have started to understand the influence of media in the western world and will have no doubt seen how certain platforms helped former President Donald Trump communicate with his supporters (and non-supporters). They are communicating with the media in English, using one of the most used languages to address and reply to nations around the world, creating a sense of relatability. They are yet to convince the majority, though they are starting to receive positive signs from Russia and China.

They are going down a list and ticking it off one by one – full amnesty for Afghanistan citizens, women to have educational and working rights, the media would be independent and not influenced, the list goes on. They have been very vague when delivering these promises and have yet to be backed by action, though from a PR perspective they are saying the right things.

The Taliban are desperate to be seen as a functional effective government who can join leaders to discuss pressing global issues; however, they have a long way to go.

In 1996, their leader Mullah Omar preached to Kabul residents "We do not believe in any kind of revenge" – A few days later, The Taliban shot former President Mohammed Najibullah and hung his body outside on a post.

I hope I am wrong; however, this is starting to look like a classic 'bait and switch' strategy. They are saying the right things, they are trying to action it in front of the correct audience while waiting for the US troops to depart by the 31st August. Once they have complete control, that's when we'll see if this was all a PR ruse or the start of a changed Taliban.

Matt Alexander - Repp Media
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