I spent Memorial Day weekend in my ancestral home, New York City. The only tangible evidence that I could find that it was indeed Memorial Day weekend was the occasional small group of sailors or marines (always in like groups) that roamed mid-town.
I used our time in “The City” to catch up on my New York Times reading and came across an article indicating that the coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan had gone down dramatically because of the perception that things were actually getting better. The other message transmitted by the article was that the American public had become tired of hearing war related stories.
(see “Wars We Chose To Ignore” @ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/26/business/media/26carr.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=war+news+coverage&st=nyt&oref=slogin)
This made me think about the audiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and wonder if they were just as tired of their media environment. And, if they were, what changes in PSYOP would be appropriate. I felt that another key ingredient in the mix was the recent set of interviews with Iraqi’s in Baghdad who seemed delighted that the Iraqi Army was back. The interviewees were totally upbeat about that ‘their’ Army was back – there was a great deal of pride in the fact that the Army was theirs. It seemed like an acceptance of a new level of security, one that was thankfully centered on Iraqi’s rather than Americans.
While I’m clearly not aware of the messaging being transmitted in theater, I suspect that the notion of aggressively promoting the Iraqi success or presence has not been pursued in part because of the dynamic nature of the environment and the fact that the messages developed previously have been overcome by events.
I am of the opinion that the local forces ought to control messages within the bounds of acceptable and previously vetted campaigns and themes. This would allow the leverage of events to reinforce the effectiveness of the messages and ensure a more positive reception.
In my view the key challenges are credibility and sourcing. Messages have to be transmitted from sources that the audience intuitively accepts. Otherwise the message would be discarded merely on the basis of the untrustworthiness of the actual or perceived source.
In my old Brooklyn neighborhood a successful campaign would have meant working through the leadership of the various buildings and blocks. Word of mouth would have spread through formal and informal leaders at gathering places such as the local ‘stoop’, the market, the café (or delicatessen in our case), places of worship, schools, athletic fields – all had a place in the news chain.
While the types of places may have changed, the principles remain the same. My message today is that perhaps the time is ripe in some areas to alter the messages to reinforce success and to give the local audiences reasons to celebrate their new security and hope for the future.