Monday, December 17, 2018

Don’t Overlook The Obvious

We all spend a lot of time in cars, but we might be overlooking an under employed PSYOP medium right outside our windshields: Billboards. The December 17, 2018, NY Times ran an article “Digital Data Gives Billboard Owners More Reason to ‘Love a Good Traffic Jam’ (see:, which is also the photo source.)

According to the NY Times the average commuter’s one-way trip in the US was not quite a half hour. While some people are indeed illegally looking at their phones, most are looking out the windshield and can help but see the billboards in front of them.

We used billboards and posters on trolleys in Bosnia during my tour there in 1997 -1998 and there are some other good spots up for grabs around the world. Different locations have different perspectives on billboards.

If you’re interested in buying a good spot in Moscow, check out: (another photo source). Muscovites also spend quite a bit of time in their cars, perhaps a little turnabout would be fair play. Of course, I’m sure that Mr. Putin, being a former spy has a seasoned network of media watchers on the lookout for anomalies in media messaging that deviate from the party line.

Cuba, on the other hand recognizes the importance of billboards as a way to constantly convey messages about the revolution and proselytize for the Communist way of life. (see:, another photo source.) 

Then again, recognizing the potential of billboards is not always a good thing. Beijing has a different approach, they hate them and have been systematically destroying them. (see:, another photo source.)

And the award for best use of billboards for PSYOP goes to Israel for pictures of Israeli soldiers on a billboard in Tehran, Iran commemorating a war memorial. (see:, another picture source). How they got there no one (except perhaps the Mosad) seems to know.

Billboards can also be an effective medium because they are visible. Imagery can potentially convey what words cannot as demonstrated by the Israeli soldiers who were identified because of their US made M16 rifles. Target populations with low literacy rates in densely populated cities can also be reached via this medium.

Consider this week’s posting a break from your typical digital overload. At the moment, I’m planning on this being the last posting of 2018 as I will be deploying as a Public Affairs Manager to support the Red Cross recovery efforts in conjunction with the Camp Fire in Northern California.

May 2019 be the very best of years for you and yours.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

No Wonder the USG Can’t Do Cyber Influence - It Can’t Even Do Radio!

The NY Times National December 13, 2018 print edition ran a below the fold, page 1 article “Troubled Vessel for US Ideals Faces New Tilt”, the same article on line was titled: Troubled by Lapses, Government’s Voice to the World Braces for New Trump Management” (see:, which is also a photo source).

The Voice of America (VOA) mission is “Since its creation in 1942, Voice of America has been committed to providing comprehensive coverage of the news and telling audiences the truth.”

It self describes itself as “Voice of America (VOA) is the largest U.S. international broadcaster, providing news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of more than 275 million people. VOA produces content for digital, television, and radio platforms. It is easily accessed via your mobile phone and on social media. It is also distributed by satellite, cable, FM and MW, and is carried on a network of approximately 2,200 affiliate stations.”

The VOA prides itself as having a firewall that “prohibits interference by U.S. government”.

The Times report not only illustrates some cracks in the all, but a bevy of misconduct that has severely tarnished the VOA’s reputation. In 2013, none other than Hillary Clinton declared that the Board of Governors of the VOA “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world”. You can hear it for yourself at:, which is also a photo source)

Clearly the task of blending journalism with political messaging is fraught with challenges. The success of journalistic message ultimately rests with their reputation for truth. While there is not doubt that message selection, wording, tone and visuals shape that message, influence efforts are based on truth.

The NY Times and others are more than a little concerned that as the political appointees of President Trump assume their roles, the definition of ‘truth’ will slip far to the right. Michael Pack, the nominee for VOA Board of Governors CEO ‘runs a conservative film making business in his home. You can check out his company and spouse/VP at:

It’s hard enough developing content that appeals to foreign audiences. Content that is liberally (pardon me) laced with clearly self-serving government interest as expressed by Mr. Trump’s desire for “our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT” is doomed to failure before it starts (see:, also a photo source.)

VOA is a proof of concept, albeit a bad one, that the US government (USG) is unable to perform even rudimentary, country focused, radio based influence operations. It’s no wonder that cyber influence remains even more elusive.