Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The PSYOP Brand – A Commercial Perspective

As a Reservist I have the privilege of orchestrating two parallel careers. As Colonel I served in both PSYOP and MI slots in a variety of settings ranging from SIGINT Platoon Leader to IO Officer at SOCOM. On the commercial side my career was concentrated in High Tech marketing. My last full time salaried position was with Symantec Corporation, the makers of Norton Antivirus. My first boss was the Executive VP in charge of “Brand and Communication”. He was hired by the CEO because while at IBM my boss demonstrated exceptional skills at Branding and Public Relations (Public Affairs or PAO in military jargon). Another of my VP bosses was an acknowledged leader in marketing techniques.

(Photo Source: China Wholesale Gifts)

I learned quite a bit about branding and marketing in my 6 years at Symantec. Above all - the purpose of the brand is to increase the value of the company and make it easier to sell products and services. Brands need to be easy to recognize, and simple to understand. The brand should convey the essence of the organization and its product or service at a glance.

In my view the issue at hand with branding for influence operations is as more the big picture than the PSYOP name change. Neither “Information Operations” nor IO is a well understood phrase or a lead element in most commands. While Senior Leaders and Commanders believe that it is important to prep the information battlefield and that the need to influence foreign audiences is greater than ever, it would be fair to say that IO is still a nascent discipline that has less than universal acceptance and is nowhere near on an equal footing as kinetic operations.

Most CDRs and staffs at the GOFO (General officer/Flag Officer) levels have not demonstrated the real desire or ability to orchestrate and coordinate information weapons systems. PAO remains aloof and dedicated to the purity of being the CDR’s voice; CNO remains a dark art practiced only by the chosen few and we in PSYOP are now running around like a dog chasing its tail self-flagellating over the name change.

Here’s the real deal – SecDef Gates and Secretary Clinton need to sit down and lay out the path for the use of information as a an instrument of US government (USG) power. It would be ideal for the President to provide his guidance, not because he is the Commander-in-Chief, but because his election shows a mastery of the information battle space. In any event their staffs need to clarify the jargon and doctrine across Strategic Communications down to tactical Military Information Support and cascade the results throughout the USG.

MG Csrnko and SWC need to work quickly with SOCOM to develop the common grounding for the PSYOP Community so that we can all move out smartly at the same time and start on the same foot.


Brad said...

Your points are exactly the risks MAJ Lopacienski highlights in his Small Wars Journal Blog post. "Re-branding" is a huge endeavor and should not be taken lightly. I seriously hope the Senior Leadership of DoD has a roadmap of where they want this go. There is great opportunity here if planned and executed effectively (key being planned and executed effectively). This is once again one of those times we will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory if we do not act swiftly and uniformly as a Regiment; your last paragraph is spot on.

Anonymous said...

For one thing we should not have the same patch as CA. Second, I love the term you use; we should be rebranded as IO (Influence Operations). That is extremely easy to understand and very accurate.