Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TV Producer Insight is Solid MISO/PSYOP Advice


When a consensus is found among media professionals, it’s worth sharing. As a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer my boss often sends some useful media references. 

Here's one about local TV producers are looking for: ‘“Air” Conditioning: Human-Interest and Visual Angles are Keys to Pitching TV’ (at: https://www.bulldogreporter.com/air-conditioning-human-interest-and-visual-angles-are-keys-to-pitching-tv-2/, which is also the photo source.)

I’ve opined in the past that the word is becoming more visual and that media trends seem to be moving toward interactivity so that any media producer whether TV or Internet would be looking for pretty much the same things.

Here are the highlights:
1.     Highlight Visual Potential
2.     Aim for Broad Appeal
3.     Put a Human Face on The Story
4.     Research Your Targets ( the media you hope to employ)
5.     Exercise News Judgment

There are a couple of other tips, but these five are the key ones. You will also need to bear in mind some production tips as well.

Putting a Human Face, especially a face that the viewer can identify with, is critical to the credib ility and impact of the story. Consider that as a major element of your efforts.

If you are producing the video remember that  you can edit video, but you can’t edit audio. Any story that involves people talking should make sure that the speakers have their own microphones. Lavalier microphones are not expensive. See: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Lavalier/ci/8535/N/4291086006?origSearch=Lavalier%20Microphones for a reasonable selection.

If you are working with a particular media outlet make sure you understand their news rhythm so that you can help them schedule your story for maximum effect.

Be a helper – providing security, transportation and perhaps some water or a meal can mean the difference of whether your story gets covered or not.

Reader input encouraged.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mobile Phones and Facebook Are Everywhere



Any normal person on a two week vacation in Europe would not take time out to do a PSYOP Blog – but then again perhaps a true PSYOPer is not quite normal.

It’s one thing to speculate about the media environment in a location and it’s quite another to visit that location and get a look on the ground. I had the opportunity to spend several days in Rome in early September 2016.

The addiction to mobile phones and to FaceBook in particular appears to be an international phenomenon. In wandering through Rome in shops and tourist spots alike, almost everyone was glued to their phone.

Entrepreneurs were selling mobile phone clamps attached to ‘selfie sticks’ and to tripods so that tourists could capture their latest adventures. Of greater interest was the fact that almost every phone I could take a look at was set to FaceBook.

It seemed like everyone - couples, individuals, taxi/limo drivers, etc. were all hooked on FB. While the preponderance of the people were in the 30s and 40s, the FB addiction was not limited to those under 40 as ‘even’ seniors were updating their status.

Moving afloat to our cruise ship, either the price of shipboard internet access is lower (at least in proportion to other costs) or the need for constant connection is stronger than it was in 2010 when we took our last cruise because almost everyone has their mobile phone with them – even at sea!

Not to be outdone the cruise line encourages people to update their FB status and share their photos on FB, Twitter, etc.

Of course, Rome is not a typical location, and probably not a place where we would engage in PSYOP or MISO, however, the addiction to mobile phones and Social Media is a critical factor in winning the cyber influence battles of the future.

While Social Media is a mostly benign way for people to communicate, let's not lose sight of the potential for harm or evil as well. We are all mindful of the fact that airplanes were not considered weapons until 15 years ago today.

Monday, August 29, 2016

At Least Russia Knows Influence Wins ‘Battles’


While the US Government continues to flop around like a fish on a pier trying to figure out what is influence warfare on the grand scale and to coordinate all operational levels and departments, Russia is already dominating the influence war with false information.

The NY Times of August 28, 2016 ran “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories”, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/world/europe/russia-sweden-disinformation.html?ref=world&_r=0, which is also the photo source.)

The Russians are no newcomer to the influence war having capitalized on misleading and accurate information to befuddle NATO, the EU and others. The Russians recognize that different mediums are complimentary and are well versed in employing complementary media such as Internet trolls to propaganda not to mention their own news bureaus.

There is no shortage of good examples. The Ukraine and the flight of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was one. A story about immigrant violence in Germany is another good example cited by the article.

The article concludes, appropriately enough with a quote from Dimitry Kiselyev, a popular Russian TV anchor, see: (Dimitry Kiselev is Redefining the Art of Russian Propaganda” at https://newrepublic.com/article/118438/dmitry-kiselev-putins-favorite-tv-host-russias-top-propogandist, the second photo source. “Today, it is much more costly to kill one enemy soldier than during World War II, World War I or in the Middle Ages,” he said in an interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQErhwknhp4  -n Russian) on the state-run Rossiya 24 network. While the business of “persuasion” is more expensive now, too, he said, “if you can persuade a person, you don’t need to kill him.”


Perhaps the new administration, having waged multi-media; social media and traditional media campaigns will be more aware of the cost effectiveness of the influence weapon and will orchestrate the change needed for the US to not only counter other national efforts such as the Russian, but to take the influence high ground.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Counterintelligence & PSYOP


We often talk about the symbiotic relationship between PSYOP/MISO and intelligence. We know that we have to perform Intelligence Preparation of the Influence Battlefield (IPIB) and that this requires a combination of intelligence sources and work products.

General intelligence can yield information about the target area, demographics, terrain, weather, etc. Media specific intelligence can compare alternative media such as broadcast (tv/radio), print (newspapers/magazines) and social media to determine the audience composition of each and to suggest what combination of media would be the best for the mission at hand.

Not much thought seems to be given to the relationship between counterintelligence and PSYOP.

The August 20, 2016 edition of the Economist ran an article “Driving away the shadows” (see: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21705307-early-intervention-prevent-terrorism-tough-get-right-britain-does-not-do-bad, which is also the photo source.)

From a MISO perspective the relevant paragraph in the article states: “Other parts of the programme have grown, too. In 2015 social-media snoopers removed 55,000 pieces of propaganda, 22% more than in 2014. The government’s counter-propaganda was viewed 15m times, compared with 3m times in 2014. A typical example features interviews with the parents of British IS fighters, interspersed with scenes of Syrian devastation.”

 The term ‘social-media snoopers’ is interesting not just because of the catchy name, but because of the function. One could argue that these ‘snoopers’ are PSYOP analysts whose job it is to spot and remove enemy propaganda. Is that an intelligence or PSYOP function? Removal of enemy propaganda would logically reduce its effectiveness (as suggested by data in the article) and could also be seen as a way to bolster OPSEC as well.

In any event, it would appear that CI and PSYOP/MISO are closely related. This relationship is no doubt strengthened because of the use of Social Media for enemy propaganda and the real time interaction it generates.

The article also stands for the old saying that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ meaning that good CI (and positive influence of course) can be part of a comprehensive program designed to thwart recruitment efforts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forget the Internet – You Need People To Stop ISIS Recruitment



Lawfare, an on-line site publication had an article on August 16, 2016, “To Stop ISIS Recruitment, Focus Offline” (see: https://www.lawfareblog.com/stop-isis-recruitment-focus-offline). The article seems counter to the popular believe that the Internet is the major recruiting source for ISIS.

There is no doubt that the Internet can provide information, act as a communications medium, and serve as a refuge for some. It can also be a communications medium where views and information are exchanged. The article states “A review by the Program on Extremism of the 100 ISIS-related legal cases in the United States shows that, with rare exceptions, friends, families, and romantic partners tangibly influenced the radicalization process.”

The level of influence from person to person contacts is probably higher than that in the virtual world. The article and others point to live social interaction as a starting point for relationships that grow into support and recruiting efforts.

The Islamic community in Minneapolis, the subject of the article, has been profiled in other articles such as the CBS Evening News, November 19, 2015 (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/minneapolis-community-struggles-with-isis-recruiting-tactics/, which is also the photo source).

A key tread is the isolating felt by youth in the community. Isolation can be assuaged through friendships made over basketball or other social activities. Once the individual’s trust is earned, then the recruiting can begin in earnest perhaps starting with propaganda videos and Internet activities.

The impact of the Internet should not be doubted. Here’s another piece first published by CNNMoney on September 30, 2014 (see: http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/30/technology/isis-recruiting/) which does a nice job addressing the Internet side.

Reader comments encouraged.

I’m also looking for any feedback on the use of MISO Companies to support BCTs rather than MISO Companies supporting divisions.

Thanks,

Larry

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cultural Knowledge 101 – Vital to PSYOPers



NFL Summer training camps always begin with the fundamentals. I came across an article in the July 31, 2016 print edition of the NY Times, “When ‘Yes’ Means Not A Chance”, it appears on-line as “How to Deal With A Foreign Colleague Who Can’t Say No” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/jobs/how-to-deal-with-a-foreign-colleague-who-cant-say-no.html?_r=0, which is also the photo source).

The essence of the article is that you need to be familiar with local culture and customs no matter where you go. The article addresses some basic concepts such as “on time”, which in many cultures, means whenever it happens.

The article touches on graft and corruption as an every day fact of life in many places and how the notion of ‘law and order’ doesn’t necessarily mean that at all.

The need for cultural familiarity, to include nuances and little known ‘rules’ is a critical element in the success or failure of localizing products from a far off location.

I worked for Symantec for many years in Corporate Marketing. Corporate was the keeper of the brand and the source of global campaigns and marketing materials. However, each region needed to not only pick and chose what was appropriate for their market and their audiences, but how to modify the corporate piece so that it would be effective.

As your team hits the practice field – maybe you should too.

A very special ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters attending the POVA meeting in Fayetteville – I’m with you in spirit.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sarcasm Is Not A Good Approach To Tackle ISIS



As many of you know, as a native Brooklynite, I have been often accused of being sarcastic. Over the years I’ve learned that sarcasm can be a sharp weapon of humor, but not a general-purpose approach.

I believe successful sarcasm is steeped in nuance and must be tailored to a particular situation. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that the State Department was employing sarcasm in their influence campaign as detailed in a NY Times article of Friday, July 29, 2016 (see: U.S. Drops Snark in Favor of Emotion to Undercut Extremists at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/middleeast/isis-recruiting.html?_r=0; which is also the photo source.) which is also the photo source.)

The article goes on to describe the approach to influence those who might leave their native countries to fight on behalf of ISIS. Media include: Facebook Instagram and Twitter. The article notes that there is also a need to distance the message from the source. That it is very likely that any message which appeared to come from the US government would be discarded out of hand.

The viewer or reader was more often ‘annoyed at its smug sarcasm rather than appalled at the horrific images on the screen’ according to the article. This comment resonates with me because the target audience has a mental picture of their personal assessment of ISIS where even horrific images purportedly portraying them would not move the influence needle.

Perhaps another error in judgment with the sarcastic approach is that one size or in this case, one message does not fit all. Research cited in the article and a dose of common sense would seem to indicate, that while there are common threads of motivating factors, the mix influencing each individual would differ significantly.

The influence missions is a difficult one and the disparity of the audience in terms of geography may very well be just as varied as the reasons that influence them.

One thing though is for sure -  the sarcastic approach is not working here.