The tools of Eleana Benador's trade fall into a convenient and neat order. "I think e-mail is wonderful," she says. "I think instant messaging is better. The telephone is better, and personal contact is best."
Benador, a New York publicist, uses all of these tools to spread the word of her clients. Lately, the word has been spreading far and wide: Benador represents many of the neo-conservative writers, thinkers and talkers reshaping US foreign policy.
Exactly how Benador got here is a bit mysterious. Born in Peru, her family moved to France when she was a child, and her life in Europe included stops in Vienna, Geneva and Paris. She is Swiss-American, considers French her native language, but also speaks fluent German, Spanish and English.
Married to a Swiss art dealer, Benador worked as a translator and editor before entering the neo-con world as an adviser to the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia think-tank. A year and a half ago, she launched Benador Associates, a small agency whose staff consists of one assistant and a part-time aide.
Benador began by offering to arrange speaking engagements for a small group of influential foreign policy academics and former government officials, including James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA, and Richard Perle, a member of the Defence Policy Board that directly advises Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defence.
As the neo-conservatives' profile rose after September 11 2001, so too did Benador's.
She organised panel discussions and press briefings, sought new clients, and found new ones knocking on her door. Now she represents almost 40 experts on the Middle East and terrorism.
They give speeches. They write opinion pieces. They appear on television. And Benador spends a lot of time brokering deals on their behalf. When I met her at New York's Regency Hotel she was courting an opinion page editor from a large US newspaper. "Please save me 1,400 words for Friday," she pleaded over one of her two mobile phones. "It's an amazing piece."
Tunku Varadarajan, editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal, which often runs pieces by her writers, says Benador's "primary quality is persistence, and an unabashed doggedness of purpose".
But it is difficult to gauge the horsepower the diminutive Benador generates. Her better-known clients need little help getting booked on to CNN; more often, she looks after their speaking engagements. The biggest beneficiaries of what Varadarajan calls the "Benador blitz" have been her media rookies. These include Iraqi exiles such as Kanan Makiya, the writer and academic, and Khidhir Hamza, former director-general of Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme.
Benador calls herself a "liberal neo-con". She had hoped to avoid war but saw it as the only way to rid Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction she is certain were there. Benador agrees with her clients on most issues, which may help explain her fee structure. Benador won't discuss details, but says many of her better established clients do not pay for her services; the newer additions do.
"She is very active and enthusiastic and engaged on the issues and so wants to gain prominence for voices that she believes should be heard," says one client, who especially values Benador's e-mail network, which she uses several times a day to alert 4,000 journalists and like-minded thinkers of a media splash by one of her stars.
Significantly, that client and another asked not to be named. They seem to tread a delicate line, seeking to remain within the Benador circle, while cautious about giving her too much credit for the popularity of their views. "People see that neo-con ideas are influential and, therefore, they allege some shadowy neo-connetwork must be responsible," said the second client. "It's not because of Eleana Benador. It's because of Osama bin Laden."
Benador says she hears from 30 people a week who want them to represent her, but plans on keeping her business small, so she can continue to pay attention to the details. She worries about how her clients look on television, sometimes escorting them to the studio. "I'm very careful with their image... It enhances the message they're delivering." And she worries about their prose. "You need a beautiful, sumptuous finale."
Holly Yeager is international editor of the Weekend FT