Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Varsity of Propaganda: The Publicity Department of the CCCP - 中共中央宣传部 [zhōnɡ ɡònɡ zhōnɡ yānɡ xuān chuán bù]


While we often go to great lengths to disassociate PSYOP from Propaganda, we recognize that it is important to study the efforts of others to influence their target audiences. The Economist of June 25, 2016 featured an article “Who draws the party line?” (see: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21701169-xi-jinping-sends-his-spin-doctors-spinning-who-draws-party-line, which is also the photo source.

The article describes the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It’s influence on the kind of massive scale you would associate with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). According to the article the Department “around $10 billion a year trying to get the Chinese government’s opinions into foreign media outlets.”

The Department directly or indirectly ‘supervises 3,300-odd television stations, almost 2,000 newspapers and nearly 10,000 periodicals.” And churns out almost 500,000 pro-government tweets a year!

The article goes on to describe some of the political machinations associated with the Department. They talk about how the Department has to “keep pace with the chancing political requirements of its boss”.

From a MISO community perspective, I wonder how much overlap and exchange there is between the Department and those charged with MISO in the People’s Liberation Army. One could argue that since the PLA and the Department both serve the Party and of course, Xi Jinping, China’s president, shouldn’t these entities be able to move people between them to broaden each other’s horizons?

The article concludes: “Like media organizations everywhere, the Publicity Department is struggling to keep pace with changing consumer demands. Unlike most such organizations, it is also having to keep pace with the changing political requirements of its boss, Mr. Xi. As an institution, these have made it more important than it was.”

It’s nice to know that consumerism is befuddling to even the largest influence organizations.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Perspective on Media: Today and Tomorrow



 
During the week of June 7, 2016 I had the pleasure attending a conference along with other Public Affairs Officers from a major non-profit organization. We had a number of highly experienced and insightful speakers. I’ve tried to capture the highlights of their comments here for you.

Media Today
·      Audiences are disloyal and disaggregated.
·      Competition


Current Best Practice Tips and Interesting Facts
·      Videos are a growing part of the media landscape. Keep them under 2 ½ minutes with 60 seconds a reasonable general target.
·      Defend, but don’t extend negative stories. Don’t give negative stories any exposure than necessary/minimal direct rebuttal.
o   Insure that all defenders are on the same messages.
·      National US media now target the 8th grade reading level.
·      Making the call to the media is better than getting the call from them.
o   Note however:
o   Be George Clooney not a Kardashian.
§  George Clooney picks his media spots, a Kardashian or one of their body parts seems to be everywhere all the time.
·      Saturday radio from 7 AM through 1 PM is the equivalent to midday/weekdays in terms of rating.
·      Stories are essentially about Characters (People) who overcome obstacles to achieve a worthy outcome.
·      Key angles for attractive stories:
o   Conflict
o   Authenticity
o   Perspective – become a resource
·      Characteristics of desirable stories:
o   You can’t Google them.
o   They put the selected medium ahead of their competition.
o   It’s new, not the same as previous items.
o   Bears in mind that each approver (Exec Producer, News Director, etc.) has their own agenda and biases.
·      Stories resonate when:
o   They have an emotional connection – compelling personal stories.
o   Impact the audience
o   Viewer Benefit
o   Empower the viewer
o   Don’t waste the viewer’s time.
o   Put a face on the data
·      Use digital platforms for videos – e.g. FaceBook
·      Types of Today’s Media
o   P          Paid Media
o   E          Earned Media
o   S          Shared Media
o   O         Owned Media


The Future of Media
·      The future of media is immersive and visual. The NY Times cardboard viewer is a preview of what is to come. People want to engage more of their senses to be a part of the action rather than just a viewer.

Photo Source: http://www.toublanc.info/newsboy/newsboy-clip-art-public-domain



Thursday, June 2, 2016

A PSYOPerator Has to Been More Than PSYOP Qualified



One of the reasons I like working exercises is that they are a way to see what you can do and what you can’t do. A couple of weeks ago I served as the IO Role Player in an exercise simulating assisting a country with some disaffected military and political issues. This required me to act as the Staff IO Officer, but more importantly I’m in the weeds of the MISO support to the operation. While the scenario and MESL are both pre-written, sometimes the Exercise Director throws a curve ball.

During the last exercise I had to plan a MISO from scratch. Of course I had to figure out the MISO part – but there were other things I had to do and know before I could even approach the MISO component.

First I had to think like the CDR. No matter how detailed the CONOP, or how many briefings are given and received, there is always something that is left out and you need to understand the hidden or implicit elements of the big operation and your piece of it.

You need to be comfortable with mapping the main operation and your piece. In our world this may also mean understanding the nuances of the terrain and the weather as they might effect leaflet drops or radio wave propagation.

We also need to understand the information and digital battlefields. This means knowing  your traditional high payoff media, and how you might integrate social media and mobile phones. Consider how the country would be informed of a natural disaster across a large area and be sure you understand the legal and regulatory landscape as well.

Once you have crafted your MISO, you’ll need to develop MOE. Lastly you need to develop alternative MISO COA so that you can quickly adjust your influence fires depending on the outcome of your MISO and the ‘big’ operation.

As always, reader input is encouraged!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pin Point PSYOP – Influencing Needles in Haystacks



When we think of MISO we generally think about large-scale operations, that is, reaching everyone or large groups in an area. Alternatively PSYOP can be aimed at specific individuals or segments that have similar media habits. However, there are those cases where you need to reach some people who define typical classifications.

A case in point where you want to influence people who are passing through an area and direct them to a central point while you don’t want others to go there. This may be a situation where you want selected individuals to assemble in a location, but you don’t want to inform adversaries or others.

Another situation might be when you want to stop the movement of people through an area. You might want to do this because they would be in danger if they kept moving or it might be that it is operationally or politically desirable for these people not to leave their current location.

The most efficient technique might be to employ IOs and NGOs to spread the world among their constituents if they can do this consistent with their organizational goals and philosophies. Another technique might be the use of loud speakers to provide verbal instructions to groups that need to be directed to central locations. Another might be to employ roving tactical teams to the same.

These kinds of campaigns preclude broadcast messaging because they would reach audiences much broader than the intended recipients. Perhaps this all goes to show that PSYOP/MISO is very much a human business and constantly requires people skills. As always, reader input is appreciated.

Photo source:  http://www.evilenglish.net/like-looking-for-a-needle-in-a-haystack/

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Does Cyberwar Mean Cyber PSYOP/MISO?




The NY Times of 25 April 2015 ran “US Cyberattacks Target ISIS in a New Line of Combat” featuring the CDR of Cyber Command and DIRNSA (pictured at right) (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/25/us/politics/us-directs-cyberweapons-at-isis-for-first-time.html?_r=0 which is also the photo source)

The article focuses on the cyber mission of disrupting enemy communications and sowing distrust among potential recruits because their communications with the terrorist group are no longer secure.

The use of cyber can be thought of as an extension of President Obama’s philosophy of avoiding the use of troops on the ground and of favoring special operations of all flavors.

The article goes on to describe how these attacks are supposed to be targeting the money trail and by the use of cyber Military Deception (MILDEC). The article then goes on to discuss the balance between the action and the revelation of sources and capabilities.

Conspicuously absent, at least in my opinion, were CyberPSYOP specifics. No one can deny that the Cyberattacks will have a psychological impact and are therefore PSYActs – but what about cyber oriented campaigns designed to hamper recruitment? When the article talks about ‘jumbling’ does it mean altering websites or Social Media to change the message from recruiting to warning the reader to stay away?

What about specific cyber ‘leaflets’, e-mails, SMS, Tweets and other messages aimed at altering the behavior of the target?

Clearly now that the cyber cat is out of the bag, these kinds of actions would seem more than appropriate – if not necessary ones.

If any of y’all out there see any articles describing CyberPSYOP/MISO – please send the links my way!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Muppets and The Taleban





The April 11, 2016 New York Times ran an article “New Muppet Helps Give Afghan Girls Role Model” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/world/asia/afghan-sesame-street-introduces-zari-a-muppet-and-role-model-for-girls.html?_r=0, which is also the photo source).

“Zari” pictured at right will be appearing on “Baghch-eSimsim” or Sesame Garden in Afghanistan. The new character is being introduced to provide a role model for girls in a country not exactly known for its ‘equal opportunity’.

I’m a big fan of Sesame Street, my kids grew up on it and I consider the Puppet Museum in Atlanta as one of my favorite places. I also believe that we acquire many of our values and habits while we’re kids, so the concept of using entertainment to convey messages and values makes a great deal of sense.

In fact, two years ago I did a posting on Palestinian children’s programming (see: http://psyopregiment.blogspot.com/2013/04/early-influence-is-hard-to-overcome.html).

Going back to Afghanistan for a moment – who is watching? According to the INTERNEWS project (http://data.internews.org/af-media/, the map source) 45% of the country owns a TV set, in a country where illiteracy is pegged at 41%.

It should also be noted that there is a spillover factor to adult viewership as well. We could speculate that these 25 minute programs are aired during the day and that most of the adults home at that time are women giving Zari a twofer in empowerment messaging.

It would be interesting to see if these programs are watched and if they have any long-term effects. If anyone has any research or references in the area of the influence of children’s programming – I’d appreciate the pointer.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

UAV’s and Propaganda



Last night my wife and I saw “Eye in the Sky” with Helen Mirren (see: http://www.wired.com/2016/04/eye-in-the-sky-modern-war-film/) .

The film does a nice job of dramatizing the decision making behind the go/no-go decision for an attack. The scenario is set in Kenya, an ally. Helen Mirren, as a British Colonel has been tracking a British national who was radicalized, her husband and two new suicide bomber recruits.

The plot leads all of the suspects to be in the same house at the same time in a militia controlled slum. The drama is moved along by having the audience identify with a local young (12?) girl who is selling bread outside the house.

Mirren’s staff calculates a 65% certainty that the girl will be killed in a missile strike.

Action goes back and forth until the two new suicide bombers are fitted with vests and explosives. Ultimately Mirren forces her targeting officer to lower his Collateral Damage Estimate (CDE) to 45% which she believes will turn the no-go into a go.

Part of the arguments center on the propaganda value of the strike. The diplomats argue that killing the one girl gives the propaganda victory to the enemy while allowing the suicide bombers to strike a soft target and cause extensive carnage would give the allies the propaganda victory.

While there was a flying cockroach like recon drone taking footage of the suicide bombers getting their vests – and of course everything was recorded, no mention was made of the need to justify the strike using that video.

Worth your time and probably a good write off as a business expense!

Photo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOqeoj669xg