If you read this blog objectively, I don’t say that Al Hurra, Radio Sawah, RFE/RL, Marti or any other Public Diplomacy efforts by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) are doing a good or a bad job. I don’t have any Measures of Effectiveness (MOE), so I can’t say. The Measures of Performance (MOP) that are provided are meaningless, ‘we broadcast 22,000 hours’ or ‘we have a reach of 20%’. MOE are very difficult. I’ve spent countless, hundreds of hours discussing MOE with other influence professionals. Seven years ago I was discussing a very large IO campaign and Dr. Dorothy Denning, who I consider a friend and a mentor, rocked my world when she simply asked: “What are your MOE”? I had been hurtling down this path to right all the wrong in the world (figuratively) and her simple question reminded me that MOE should drive what we do, not gut feel. Too often government influence professionals drive too far down this road before realizing their mistake.
The plain fact is that MOE are sometimes very difficult and the outcome of some efforts to measure them are sometimes not consistent. If Congress had its collective act together they would mandate MOE and MOP for all operations using US taxpayer dollars. ‘Show us that you are using this money wisely’. But Congress obviously has higher priorities, like elections.
Someone commented in response to an older blog, Strategic Communication: Radio Sawa in Tripoli, Libya at 106.6 MhZ, how BBG operations are perceived in the Middle East, based on “recent reports”. My comment in return is to ask, when you read “recent reports”, do you consider the source and their inherent bias? I can find numerous reports on almost every issue, pro and con on any perspective I might choose. The idea is to find reports which are objective. An interpretation based on facts is fine, but zoom down to find out which facts are being used and then judge how the facts are being interpreted – or skewed. Every reporter has a built in bias, every human intelligence collector has a similar bias. Later in the reporting business, every editor and every intelligence analyst has a bias but they usually have the luxury of writing in a non-threatening environment. Their boss then usually has the final say-so, change this or change that and therefore, change the perspective, sometimes very subtly but it my change the perspective in a major way. So… pay attention to that bias, see if it is consistent and then judge the reports.
More importantly, however, is the comment that BBG efforts in some parts of the world might be judged as irrelevant. Why is that? Have people in other countries stopped listening to their AM, FM or shortwave radios? Have they stopped watching television? Instead, do they watch satellite television? Do they get cable? Do they read their news online? Have they found other sources? The reports from BBG mostly say there is a swing to this end, but according to a recent interview I conducted at the BBG, the biggest efforts remain with broadcasting. There is a strong online presence and there are strong efforts to counter filtering, jamming and blocking. The BBG does analysis of effectiveness, I just question some of their methodology and the results. I’m not dismissing it as irrelevant, I just need to do a deeper dive into “how” they put together the surveys used, how they contacted respondents in various environments, how it was all normalized, compensating for different environments and what calculations were used to derive the results.
I recently questioned a close friend about his approach to how we do public diplomacy, strategic communication and information operations collectively, at the US government level. The preponderance of our new efforts focus on combating extremist ideologies. Because much of it is highly classified I am having a difficult time determining percentage of effort. Combating Violent Extremism (CVE) is the phrase du jour for these new efforts, but I want to know how it fits into the big picture. How does the bigger, broader Public Diplomacy effort synchronize with CVE? Are they reinforcing? Are they coordinated? The simple answer is no, the BBG is an independent agency and their broadcasting efforts are staunchly independent from any efforts by the Department of State. For shame, US Government, especially you folks in Congress, for shame. You’re not using my money well.
This all comes together whenever we objectively look at all efforts at the government level to inform and influence other governments, their militaries and/or their people. So… beyond asking the easy question, “Are you using my money well?” I ask, how do you know?
- $50 Million Government Polling Contract with Gallup Attracts Scrutiny (conservativebyte.com)
- How we used to respond to Libyan terrorist attacks….there is no security, no safety, in the appeasement of evil. (thebusypost.wordpress.com)
- Americans Deserve to Know What the U.S. Government Is Broadcasting (heritage.org)
- US Embassy Egypt: PAO Larry Schwartz Thrown Under the Bus Over “Inappropriate Apology” (diplopundit.net)
- Foreign Service Staffing Gaps, and Oh, Diplomacy 3.0 Hiring Initiative to Conclude in FY2023 (diplopundit.net)
- DoD Science and Technology Strategic Communication/Social Media Programs (publicintelligence.net)
- E-diplomacy: Foreign policy in 140 characters (bbc.co.uk)
- The New Public Diplomacy: The American Story Starts with Knowing Ourselves (heritage.org)
- Sanctions: Diplomacy’s Weapon of Mass Murder (dissidentvoice.org)
- AYUSA Proposal Selected as Top Program by U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy (prweb.com)