Fixing Mexico’s sordid image
Nation hires a Dallas PR firm to emphasize its trade importance, downplay violence
— reported by the Houston Chronicle
Public relations savant Rob Allyn took on a tough job when he signed with the Mexican government in December to massage that country’s image among uneasy U.S. citizens.
But the task of spinning Mexico as a good neighbor has grown to uncomfortable proportions in recent weeks, thanks to a series of headline-grabbing border incidents — many of them violent, all of them drug-related.
And Mexico’s image is not just a Mexican problem any more.
The city of Laredo, Texas, has hired its own PR firm to shift the focus away from the gunplay and drug violence in its sister city across the Rio Grande. Just last week, gunmen attacked the offices of a Nuevo Laredo newspaper with automatic weapons and grenades in apparent retaliation for coverage of drug-related crime.
Allyn, a Dallas-based American, is a polished professional who trained for a career as a diplomat before discovering politics and public relations. He stays unswervingly on message.
Allyn knows Mexico, thanks to a crash course in culture and language he absorbed while advising Fox’s history-making presidential campaign in 2000. Fox’s victory ended the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
Fox’s staff kept Allyn’s role under wraps then, frequently registering him in hotels under an assumed Spanish surname to avoid controversy over injecting a foreigner into the campaign.
Allyn already had experience in a different type of fiction, publishing a political novel in 1990 about two Texas politicians whose lives are intertwined in a messy web of sex and violence.
But it was Allyn’s Republican pedigree that first interested Fox when they met in May 1997. Allyn’s image-building campaign work for President Bush and virtually every Republican officeholder in Texas looked helpful to the Mexican businessman just testing the political waters.
Allyn calls his contract “honorable work,” but it’s made him a target.
Anti-immigration bloggers lobbed verbal grenades at him across the Internet and a pair of Mexican-American leaders in Dallas questioned why the $720,000 contract had not gone to a Mexican firm.