Thursday, May 29, 2008

PSYOP and Personification

If pictures are more powerful than words, then aren’t people more powerful than mere messages? Channeling messages through identifiable and credible individuals is a proven formula for success. Employing people to express ideas is a powerful way to crystallize messages into an appealing and convincing approach. In classical marketing theory this is called personification which is embodying or exemplifying an idea by using a personality to get your point across.

The May 28 NY Times article: “Al Qaeda Warrior Uses Internet to Rally Women” ( is a great case in point.

First of all it labels a woman in Belgium whose weapon is virtual words as a warrior. That in and of itself is worthy of note – not too many publications recognize that the electron is at least as mighty as the pen is. Whether or not the increase in female suicide bombers is due in part to Ms El Aroud’s efforts is not the point.

The point is -- she is a recognizable figure and apparently an IO force to be reckoned with. It appears that she has carved out a place in the IO battlefield. In my opinion she is also very likely to be perceived as a champion of sorts. Perhaps a better way to express my thought is to see her in the same way a mother might see a Roller Derby Star. Mothers don’t want their daughters to grow up and skate in the Roller Derby, but they might hold out the Roller Derby Star as a positive role model because she is succeeding in a man’s world on her own terms.

The takeaway for PSYOP message crafters is to personify whenever you can. People want to identify with other people more than anything else. They want to cheer for those they support and help those they feel have been wronged.

For our part, I am hopeful that we are in the process of crafting messages by credible spokes people deploring the training of child suicide bombers and to the extent possible putting a face on this tragedy by telling the stories of the boys who were recently rescued from such training in Iraq.

Over the years I have learned that the simplest messages from the most believable, beloved, respected, or otherwise positively regarded spokes people works the best.

Judging from the high esteem that the NY Times seems to have Ms. El Aroud, it appears that our enemies have learned this lesson very well.

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