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The U.S. needs one of its biggest communications efforts in decades, aimed first at Americans at home and then at the world beyond its borders. To get it right, to make it work and to stick with it are the challenges for President Bush, for Republicans and Democrats and for the volunteer marketing professionals who will play roles in this critical effort.

Having a skilled ad professional-Charlotte Beers-in the key communications post at the U.S. State Department should help jump-start the process. Having the Advertising Council, since World War II the ad industry's "mobilization" committee for meeting national needs, ready to start long-term work is another good sign. But it's not enough. It takes the client to get things moving, and the client-the U.S. government-needs to act swiftly to create a central body to identify, coordinate, prioritize and plan the messages that need to get out.

Domestically, government officials now have what every marketer wants: an audience that is hungry for information, that wants to know what to do and that's willing to do it. This interest needs to be directed and channeled-just the task for advertising and for the talents and media the Ad Council can muster. But the council needs a client that brings the full gamut of programs together-from public-health scares and airport security to mutual understanding programs aimed at Muslim and non-Muslim Americans.

Globally, the communications challenge is more complex and the audience more skeptical and hostile. The tools will be more varied-from today's leaflet drops and radio broadcasts in Afghanistan and appearances by U.S. officials in Islamic media to longer-range future programs, perhaps including ads. All of this requires a commitment of years.

The first step remains to be taken, however: The client must get its objectives in order. There's a natural steering committee that should be activated immediately: Ms. Beers and new homeland security chief Tom Ridge. The ad industry awaits your call.

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