Was this Zelensky’s first major PR gaffe?

Polish journalist Michał Karnowski argues on portal wPolityce.pl that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife’s Vogue session was a mistake

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Michał Karnowski
Source: Twitter@lognaclarckhall

The gossip based celebrity media all over the world, Poland included, may be delighted. “Vogue” itself must be pleased to have managed to persuade the head of state and his wife from a war-torn country to do a photo shoot.

The contrast of his battle weariness and her beauty works well in a pictorial. It’s all very romantic with the Ukrainian president expressing his feelings for his wife, a wife who has taken on an important diplomatic role traveling the world on Ukraine’s behalf, as her husband stays home to lead the fight against Russia

The trouble is that the reaction online in the U.S., and not only there, has not been altogether positive. Comments have appeared that this stylized photo session jars when confronted with the harrowing photographs of the suffering and destruction of the war. There were even those asking if there is any sense in spending billions on aid for Ukraine when its leaders have time for such things and that it may all just be theater. 

There is of course the other side of the argument. Communicating in ways that are compatible with popular culture can be supportive of a country fighting an invasion. But this time round there has been collateral communication damage. Such photo sessions will inevitably be questioned at a time when soldiers and civilians are perishing and so many are mourning the loss of their loved ones. 

Unintentionally, it has been suggested that the drama is contrived. There is just too much evidence of stylists, make-up artists and photographers in the frame. That was a mistake. 

This is the first such communication error committed by the Zelensky team. It does not matter whether it was a misjudgement by advisors or the wishes of the lady. Any suspicion that all this is just theater is damaging, even in Poland where those who support Ukrainian independence are faced with the cynicism of the opposition highlighting the inconvenience caused by this war. 

It is also the case that no Polish media, including Polish public TV, has managed to get an interview with President Zelensky. No time because of war? Pity, as it might have helped the Ukrainian cause more than a session with “Vogue.” 

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