Thursday, June 28, 2012

Next Stop For PSYOP/MISO: Africa?

I don’t often use the Washington Times as a news source, but a June 25, 2012 article came to my attention from the Defense News Early Bird. “US expanding military aid, intelligence in Africa” (see, which is also the photo source).

The thrust of the article was that terrorism was a growing concern in Africa and that the US had been ramping up counter terrorism operations via military aid, and intelligence in Africa. In addition to these efforts the US is involved in ongoing training and support efforts as part of the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA). Requirements for this Peace Keeping training include graduation from Command and General Staff College (or equivalent) and expertise in at least one Combat Arms, Combat Service or Combat Service Support US MOS. Instructors should also have staff experience at the BN or Bde level.

If for the moment we assume that MISO is now an integral part of US operating doctrine it should follow that MISO doctrine and operations would be part of any training designed to train foreign military personnel in that doctrine should include MISO. This would be especially true of the Peace Keeping environment where MISO plays an integral role.

This also means new requirements for language and cultural expertise. In fact a demand for some of more popular languages such as French, Portuguese or Castilian Spanish is already on the table. Cultural expertise is another matter as each country presents a different cultural mosaic and past conflicts have sometimes irrevocably reinforced tribal and ethnic hatreds.

Thus far the demand is a trickle, but how many of us really knew much about Afghanistan before September 2011? No doubt AFRICOM will have its share of terrorist or war criminal missions and subtle changes are likely in the future of the base in Djibouti. 

The AFRICOM AO presents the familiar challenge of trying to support foreign militaries without a significant US footprint and General Carter Ham’s stated goal of partnership oriented engagement. No doubt part of the challenge is what level of MISO expertise, if any does the DOD want to share with its fledgling African partners and what sort of training and assistance effort makes the most sense given the impending decline in demand from Afghanistan.

Friday, June 22, 2012

PSYOP and Al Qaeda: The Few Targets Left

I was having a tough time today coming up with my weekly Blog post. Most of the time writing comes pretty easily to me, but today was just one of those days. Perhaps it was bonding with the plumbers who were replacing the Hot Water Heater. Perhaps it was slaving away on a paper dealing with the new EU Data Privacy regime. Whatever it was -- today was a tough one.

Determined to find something I came across an article from Reuters “Strikes on al Qaeda leave only “handful” of top targets” (see 

The headline struck my fancy.At first I was going to write about the kind of pin point campaign that might be needed to overwhelm the remaining targets inducing them to surrender. The article went on to say there were only 8 targets left.

If it were targeted against these 8 – would they feel cornered or emboldened or would they even give a sh*t?

Then it dawned on me – the real target of any message from that article is other terrorist groups and their leadership. The message is that if we want to, the US will expend much of its treasure and we will be uncharacteristically relentless in tracking down and destroying terrorist targets.

I could be cynical and say the motivation behind this effort is the fact that this is an election year and that the Commander-in-Chief wants to bulk up his defense bona fides or I could say that the US has adapted to the new kind of asymmetric war that is terrorism. Please don’t interrupt today’s illustration as an exemplification of my political views, it just happened to reflect today’s theme.

Alternatively it could be just another story that has no PSYOP alternative meaning. 

I’ll let you sort it out. Have a good weekend, or for those of you reading this after 25 June 2012, I hope you had a good weekend.

(Photo Source: Google Image Search; credited to: I know it should be a 12, but I figured y’all could use a bit of your imagination)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Experience IS the Best Teacher

I am fortunate enough to participate in several FTXs as a SME/Role Player. I’m always the MISO guy and most of the time the IO guy as well. Not only to I have to contribute in my specialty area, but, I’m called upon to function as a part of a simulated large staff for a JTF CDR, typically a two star. I also have to coordinate with the related and indirect contributors to IO and more often than not function as an educational resource to help explain how all these elements have to work together synergistically to accomplish the CDR’s mission.

This means that I have to be able to represent our craft in a realistic and competent manner.  Merely commenting is not enough – I actually have to perform as if I were ‘on the job’.

However, knowing is never the same as doing. There is no substitute for being under time pressure to deliver a concept or a work product that implements the CDR’s guidance and concepts to further mission accomplishment.

It’s also satisfying to be part of a team that by functioning as a professional unit and is able to convey teaching points by doing and provide objective and informed feedback to a group of students as mentors.

I’ve also learned that while the Internet is certainly a great resource and an indispensible part of today’s MISO toolbox, there is no substitute for having a team member who has actually been to the AO recently and understands the environment. I’ve also learned that a Joint environment is often an exercise in new acronyms and jargon. Being able to speak the lingua franca of the Command is a prerequisite to doing your job.

I also forgot how tiring it can be to put in a long shift and then have to ‘go home’ and deal with your ‘day job’ and the other aspects of life that go on regardless of what you have planned.

I must say that this has been one of the best FTXs I’ve had the pleasure to participate in and I am blessed to be able to continue to be a part of the evolution of PSYOP.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trailer Marketing – PSYOP Food For Thought

The Thursday, May 30, 2012 edition of Variety ran an article “Building a better buzz clip” ( provided insight on how short video clips reinforce the “traditional three waves of conventional trailers and are designed to ignite a virtual buzz”. (Also the photo source.)

Too often we get mired in the world of leaflets and loudspeakers. As events like the Arab Spring and “Occupy” swirl around us we need to stop for a moment and do a bit of creative thinking. If the objective is to influence a market that has access to technology (not necessarily a mainstream assumption by the way), then we in the influence community need to consider new ways of getting our messages out and of leveraging the traditionally un-leverageable.

The objective of the shorter piece is to entice people to get engaged talking about it. The conversation and any others that spring from that conversation are ‘the buzz’. That is they are spreading the message presumably by messengers who are far more credible to the recipient than the original producer of the short video. In our case getting citizens, particularly those in the teen/young adult demographic to ‘buzz’ about our messages would be a real coup.

The Hollywood types also pointed out that this kind of ‘collateral video’ is “relatively inexpensive to distribute online since it is not a paid ad. These mini teasers have a variety of names such as non-standard units, special clips, buzz clips, side stores and collateral videos according to the article.

A complementary article “Trailer trends capitalize on a sense of déjà vu” ( offers some techniques to increase the effectiveness of the piece to include sound design elements, music, pace, etc.

The point is simple, if we consider the PSYOP/MISO field a creative endeavor, then we need to exercise our own creativity on a regular basis.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Targets Within Targets

We know that all y’all who are experienced PSYOPers know that you have to do a thorough target analysis for each major segment of the target audience. Sometimes we tend to take a more simplistic view to our detriment. 

By way of analogy, today’s post starts with some comments about a particular NGO in California.
As a Public Affairs Officer with the Red Cross I’m keenly aware of the demographics of the area we serve. A very significant portion of our population are not native English speakers, and in fact a sizable chunk of the population, often those at greatest risk, do not speak English at all. Consequently we have to understand how the different ethnic groups avail themselves of the media to optimize our media employment.

Neilsenwire published an article last March “Who Watches What (and HowMuch)? US TV Trends by Ethnicity ( The article cited two key conclusions: “In November 2010, African-Americans used their TVs an average of 7 hours 12 minutes each day–far above the total U.S. average of 5 hours 11 minutes. Asians used their TVs the least, just 3 hours and 14 minutes on average.” The article also addressed DVR usage as well. Cleary important information for planners.

While it may be tempting to lump all speakers of a particular language in the same bucket, this is not necessarily the right thing to do. A poll by the Associated Press and Univision ( showed that even though someone speaks English, they are also likely to listen to Spanish language television.

Of course some other nuances will creep in to the analysis as well. For example if the target is comparatively well off and educated, are the highly reliant on the Internet or their smart phone so that these media need to be considered an essential part of the campaign? 

If the target is rural or low tech are there gathering places where posters, graffiti, social events, or other opportunities for messaging exist?

This kind of complex and nuanced analysis is part of what makes PSYOP/MISO such a great career field.