Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Commercial Marketing and PSYOP: Background and a Thought

During my PSYOP career I have often heard that PSYOP is really a form of marketing and that today’s issues in the PSYOP Community are similar to those faced by marketing organizations.

As a Reservist I have two careers: one military and one civilian. In my case most of my commercial career has centered on marketing. In December 2006 I concluded a 6 year run in the marketing department of one of the world’s largest software companies. My roles ranged from Director of North American Enterprise Marketing to Director of Market Intelligence to Analyst Relations, Corporate Strategist and Public Sector Evangelist.

I was at the Corporate HQ and a part of the corporate marketing department. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) reported directly to the CEO. The Corporate Marketing Department consisted of Market Intelligence (Research and Competitive Analysis), Analyst Relations, Marketing Communications, Events, Partner Marketing and Regional Marketing. Public Relations and Brand Management although normally part of marketing didn’t move over until a key Executive VP departed.

The main job of the CMO was in essence to protect the value of the corporate brand and to make the job of the sales people easier by influencing the behavior of our customers and prospects and by identifying those individuals and organizations that were likely buyers for our products.

Corporate marketing established the corporate tone, developed corporate messages and governed the corporate brand and its image. Regional marketing departments were responsible for localizing the corporate materials, messages and guidance in order to maximize sales and profits within the region. There are two conflicting philosophies concerning to whom marketing should report. One advocates that Regional and Country marketing people should report up to the corporate marketing entity and the other believes that marketing people should report to the senior executive leader in their geography. At the company where I worked all marketing people reported up to the CMO.

It was felt that this structure insured a commonality of marketing and homogeneity of messages that in total would yield the best overall results in terms of sales.

While the question one is tempted to ask is how does all this relate to PSYOP? The real question is how are US government efforts all managed in concert to insure that the messages reaching audiences around the world are similarly cohesive, reinforcing and successful.

Given that the Department of State is the lead for Foreign Relations it would appear that their key element is the country team headed by the Ambassador. He or she is the President’s representative and by extension the representative of the US government. The President as the country CEO entrusts his Public Diplomacy ‘marketing’ efforts to the DoS in this context.

DoD in general and PSYOP in particular is organized differently. There are global and regional Combatant Commanders, Theater Commanders, Corps Commanders, Division Commanders, BCT Commanders, etc. PSYOP missions are executed by units that cumulatively report up through different pipes (USSOCOM, USASOC and the USARC) and none of these is particularly ‘country’ oriented. Furthermore, the future PSYOP force is constructed with a view to support the overall force, not necessarily with the perspective of optimizing effects in a particular country.

Now that I’ve offered up a picture of the problem, let me posit an approach to a solution. During my tenure in Bosnia I found that it was incredibly helpful to have a good relationship with key members of the Embassy. While I was the DCO of an American unit that was part of a NATO force, it was vital to have the window into the civilian world. However, we were not necessarily able to spider web the knowledge we gained through to the subordinate Multi-National Districts (MND), nor could we counsel key subordinate Commanders on their AOs and the key influencers (individuals and media).

It would appear that the country Military Information Support Team (MIST) needs to play the key role of buffer and shock absorber between the country orientation of the Embassy Team and the AO disposition of the military. As such they would need official linkages at the highest levels of the appropriate military command and solid communication with national level PSYOP resources and organizations. This also presupposes that MIST individuals have superb interpersonal skills that would enable them to effectively move in civilian, diplomatic and military circles.

Comments from the Community are invited.

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