WEEK 18 – 18 Mar 07: PSYOP is not the news unless you are RT I suppose. In Baghdad, Military Information Support Operations (MISO), nee PSYOP, Soldiers work the streets.
News at Eleven, After the Game
“Psychological Operations is not the local news” – Me
I could say the same thing for Information Operations. We are not the news. The news says things like this. “Today a car bomb exploded in the market district martyring twenty-eight people.” Anymore, al Sharqiya, the Sunni backed television station, and al Iraqiya, the Shia and government backed news station, are saying the same thing: the explosions are martyring Iraqis. That Al Qaeda conducted the car bombing is simply assumed. Everyone knows who did it.
Honestly, I can’t say it any better than the Iraqi media and I doubt any other Coalition Force can. Yet, some have this perception that we need to do something unique with PSYOP forces and products and call it reactive Information Operations. We want to go back to our bases and crank out a blend of Public Information facts mixed with our opinion on one sheet of paper. The next day we go out to inform the people of what occurred, but they already know because they were there or they saw it on the news last night or they heard about it from their neighbor. Ninety plus percent watch TV. We are already a day late with our version of the news.
Rather than do that, I recommend we use Information Operations to exploit the event by immediately conducting key leader engagements and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in accordance with our battle drills. Face to face engagements are the lynch pin of Psychological Operations – any PSYOP NCO or Officer worth a damn will tell you that. PSYOP is not, as we may believe, about the product. The product only reinforces the message to the target audience to support the government and security forces, to report crime and IEDS, or to not support militias, Al Qaeda or any other bad guy.
When negative events like a car bombing or murder occurs, we can move the PSYOP or Civil Affairs unit to the site on the way back to base. We can pass the facts of the event like a young girl was killed by a bomb or a teacher was murdered by militias to the team via radio. When the PSYOP forces arrive, they can use the facts as talking points to drive their face to face engagement. Depending on where the discussion goes, the PSYOP team can deliver the appropriate product – we now have more than four hundred from which to choose.
Arriving the same day accomplishes much. We are demonstrating that we are there to assist the government and their security forces. We can squelch rumors and we don’t show up with old news. Even if we cannot get to the site the same day we do not need to run back to base and produce a newsletter. The time is better spent doing post mission brief backs where the PSYOP team can determine if the delivered products were well received. If they were not, then we can improve the products. This is part of PSYOP target analysis process which will become non-existent if we are always cranking out products.
We have a newspaper, Baghdad Now, which is one of our tools for informing the populace of our and the Iraqis hard work. Baghdad Now is packaged to inform the public of what we have done even if it and most of the other news is a week old. The articles could improve, but it is likely the PSYOP teams don’t have time to write them because they are developing and conducting the previously mentioned reactive information products.
Every time we deliver a mini-newsletter reactive information product we missed an opportunity to deliver a timely message to supports our PSYOP objectives. In turn, the missed PSYOP objective also misses the overall information or Communication Line of Operation objective. Eventually, the messages deteriorate into a massive mess of garble instead of a coherent campaign.
PSYOP influences the target audience to conform to a desired behavior through the repetition of a consistent message. PSYOP, despite the implications of its nefarious name, is really like marketing. It relies on target audience analysis, product pre-testing, post-testing and other similar processes. Yet, we don’t want to use proven marketing techniques.
PSYOP and Information Operations do not react to events. They exploit the events that occur. If you review the PSYOP objectives, almost all possible enemy induced events are predicted. All you have to do is show up and say I told you the militias don’t care about you – call us at the Joint Security Station.
If I hear that a PSYOP product doesn’t work one more time, I may go home. Not all PSYOP products will work, but all PSYOP takes time. We have been at this for a while and we are seeing some positive changes in behavior, but I bet it will happen faster and better when we are more consistent. Now, let us all get on message, get out of the way and let the PSYOP pros work their Mojo.