Friday, February 15, 2008

Market Intelligence and Counter Propaganda Analysis

Commercial organizations routinely gather competitive intelligence from open sources. Most companies in the high tech world concentrate on feeds, speeds and features. Some expand their focus to include company level intelligence – what products and acquisitions are the competitors likely to field. In many cases these functions are embedded in a larger function called Market Intelligence. This includes mapping the landscape to include forecasts for key industries, the overall economic climate, and estimates of how much product and services will be bought in a designated time frame, usually 5 years.

We in the PSYOP community should take a similar approach when assessing the enemy’s propaganda. Analysts should look at the technical details of the propaganda – how sophisticated, what resources were needed to produce it – quality as compared to commercial quality, where was it likely to be produced originally etc. The designated media should be examined not just for the message, but for the implications of selecting this medium or outlet versus another. The nature of the spokesperson and their approach should also come in for scrutiny. Key messages should be extracted and messages that seem out of context should be especially reviewed to determine if they are serving an ulterior purpose such as communicating to the ‘friendly’ force rather than the target audience.

Individual enemy PSYOP products should be grouped in a time line for further analysis to determine common themes, campaigns, likely future media, etc. Once the products from a group are consolidated and analyzed, groups should be compared against each other to determine the level of homogeneity across them, common messages, etc.

After the analysis of what the adversary is doing is completed, the really hard work begins – what counter moves need to be taken. These counter moves may or may not be PSYOP or information oriented, they might include face to face actions designed to thwart the adversary’s ability to communicate effectively. Psychological acts might be employed that would graphically disprove or denigrate the effectiveness of the adversary’s efforts.

A key part of the counter propaganda analysis is the link to the intelligence community and the research resources of the commercial sector. The commercial sector might be able to offer a media map that shows which media are the most effective for the type message, target audience and location. Today’s AOs are blanketed by satellite television so that outlets outside the main AO need to be assessed as well. Other commercial information might point to credible spokes people or outlets that should be employed on behalf of the friendly forces.

Key to counter propaganda analysis is measurements of effectiveness (MOE). MOE help the analyst determine how successful the adversary has been to influence the target to behave in line with his goals. MOE is a subject of debate in the PSYOP community and MOE in denied areas or in areas such as remote or dense urban areas where it is difficult to gauge the situation at hand. Of course subjective MOE are better than none and ‘gut feel’ is still a well respected commodity in marketing circles.

It seems to me that the analysis of what adversaries needs greater emphasis in the PSYOP cycle. I’m also of the belief that we need to be more sensitive to the fuzzy and the human in a way that facilitates operations and is not hobbled by false beliefs in silver bullet technology.

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