The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Chapter 5

Information Strategies

The defining trend of the 1990s, from corporate boardrooms to private living rooms, is connecting everyone and everything to everyone and everything else. The American public is faced with many choices: interactive television, cellular phones, modems, faxes, personal digital assistants, an assortment of daily newspapers, online computer information services and other easily accessible information services -- if it can be connected, it seems to be in demand. The computer has invaded the American home. In this decade it has become routine that news and information can now be tailored to fit the individual needs of the consumer using on-line services, distributed electronically and received instantaneously at his or her computer. With the sophistication, power and miniaturization of these technologies improving each year, and the cost dropping at an equally rapid pace, the public will expect access to these devices and services and the information they carry. These emerging technologies have contributed to the refocusing of the Public Affairs mission. It has resulted in shifting the information provision function from an emphasis on producing specific products (such as post and field newspapers and radio/television news programs) to focusing on the processing of our themes and messages and their intended effects -- the function of information communication, rather than the form. This chapter explains the objectives of information strategies, identifies and explains the elements of information strategies, and describes the relative advantages and disadvantages of present day and emerging information communication channels available to PA organizations. Most importantly, it explains how best to use these information channels to satisfy the information needs of the various target audiences as we enter the information age.


5-1. Information Strategies is the sum of all actions and activities, which contribute to informing the American public and the Army. The responsibility for this activity is assigned to an element within each PA section, which focuses entirely on accomplishing the information strategy mission. This section is usually called the Public Affairs Information Services Section. At all echelons, it employs numerous techniques to provide news and information to internal and external audiences. The Army provides an expedited flow of complete, accurate and timely information, which not only communicates the Army perspective, but also attempts to educate audiences and engender support for the force.

5-2. Using a combination of contracted services, organic military assets, and government and commercial communications networks, Public Affairs organizations provide information to news media representatives, deployed soldiers, home station audiences and the American public. The Information Services Section within a Public Affairs organization coordinates information efforts and develops informational products (such as digital text, graphics, and photos, printed publications, audio/video news releases and graphic imagery) into consolidated campaigns designed specifically to present the Army's perspective. This means that Army Public Affairs communicates information to create an informed American public and Army force, assist them in gaining a clear understanding of the strategic, operational and tactical situation.

5-3. To accomplish this, the Information Services Section must develop information objectives or goals during the planning process prior to an operation. These information goals are similar to the PA standards of service and support, which appear in Appendix Q, in that they establish a basis for determining successful information communication operations.

5-4. These information objectives should include:

  • Ensuring an understanding of the role of America's Armed Forces in American society.
  • Ensuring an accurate perception of the particular military situation or mission.
  • Ensuring an understanding of individual and unit roles in mission accomplishment.
  • Establishing confidence in America's Army to accomplish the assigned mission in accordance with our national values.
  • Establishing confidence in and support for American soldiers.

5-5. By establishing a comprehensive information strategy program, Public Affairs can assist in mission accomplishment by increasing audience understanding of the situation and establish confidence in and support for the force. This contributes to unit cohesion and provides commanders with increased range of action, free of distractions and limitations.

5-6. This is best accomplished by three basic types of information campaigns:

  • MISSION. Both external and internal publics need to know what the mission is, what they're being asked to do and why. They need to know not only the organization's mission, but also how it fits into the big picture -- the political/strategic-level situation, and why it is important.

  • ROLE. All military members and civilian employees need to have an understanding of their job and how it relates to mission accomplishment. The general public needs to have an accurate understanding of the military's role and its ability to accomplish the mission. This understanding results in confidence in the force and demonstrates American unity and resolve.

  • MORALE. Military members need to have access to news and information about current events and the activities available to them while deployed. They also need to have access to information from civilian commercial news sources. This is important because, in addition to being more credible, it allows the deployed force to see how the operation and their participation in it are being portrayed for the American public. In order to better understand the mission, their role in it, and give it his or her full effort, they have to know what effect the operation is likely to have at the local, regional, national and international levels. The opportunity to involve themselves in educational and other activities is necessary to quality of life and morale. A well-informed service member is more effective.

5-7. The general public is interested in soldiers, their lifestyle, how they are being treated and their ability to accomplish a given mission. Information about these topics provide reassurance, confirming that soldiers maintain professional and ethical values and are being cared for adequately.

Historical Perspective
During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, many commanders developed innovative methods of sharing Command Information products produced in theater and in the rear. The products greatly enhanced morale at both ends. Some commanders and PAOs used the products as issue management tools to dispel rumors in theater and at home station. The products included field newspapers, newsletters, videotapes, audiotapes, etc. They also let soldiers returning from the area meet with family support groups to answer any questions.
(After Action Report 1991)


5-8. Commanders at each echelon are responsible for Public Affairs operations and support. Public Affairs officers and noncommissioned officers at various levels assist commanders in the discharge of these responsibilities. Public Affairs staffs are responsible for accomplishing the Public Affairs information communication mission. This responsibility includes Public Affairs operations in all subordinate, assigned or attached commands.

5-9. PA is only one of many information channels available to a commander. PA information provision cannot substitute for a commander's personal involvement in his "Command Information" program.

5-10. All public affairs practitioners have access to all information that is not classified or violates Operational Security or the Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFI) for use in preparing information products. Commanders must ensure the EFFI is up-to-date based on current situations and operational guidance. Public Affairs personnel at all levels must produce and release accurate information packages based on DoD directives and Army policies.

5-11. Strategic Level Commands are responsible for providing public affairs guidance to subordinate units. They develop central themes and messages and provide umbrella guidance to subordinate PA staffs. They must also provide subordinate commands with information useful in preparing information products for internal and external release. They are additionally responsible for marketing public affairs information products to subordinate commands, home stations, the Army as a whole, as well as the general public. Strategic level Public Affairs staffs are the primary coordination point for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service and the geographical manager for radio and television services including personnel, down links, facilities and equipment.

5-12. Operational Level Commands are responsible for communicating public affairs guidance to subordinate units. They expand on information campaign themes and messages, and provide additional information products to subordinate command PA staffs. Additionally, they provide subordinate commands with information useful in preparing information products for internal and external release. They are responsible for gathering and producing public affairs information products for release. In the event the Operational Command is the senior command in an area or theater, it assumes the responsibilities of the strategic level command.

5-13. Tactical Level Commands are responsible for gathering information products for release through their next higher headquarters to home stations, the Army as a whole, as well as the general public. These commands are also responsible for coordinating the dissemination of information and information products received from senior commands down to subordinate commands. In the event the tactical command is the senior Army command in an area or theater, it assumes the responsibilities of the operational-level command and will be augmented to accomplish these additional functions.


5-14. The Information Services Section uses all available means to gather complete, factual, unbiased information for use in information campaign development. The information is developed, converted into the most appropriate product form based on the information needs/target audience assessment and information communication channel availability, and then transmitted to the intended audiences. This is called the Information Provision Process.

5-15. Although the information strategy process follows a deliberate cycle, it is a continual process. Information campaigns are also conducted simultaneously, with personnel examining external and internal information needs, carrying messages from concept through execution and program evaluation, to accomplish specific PA objectives. The cycle has four phases -- acquire, process, protect and distribute. (See Figure 5-1.) Evaulation is a key component in the cycle. It must be conducted throughout the four phases. This ensures the campaigns are meeting their objectives, and are altered if they do not.

*Evaluation must be conducted throughout each phase

Figure 5-1


5-16. During this phase, a ISS identifies and assesses several factors: the situation, the environmental factors, the mission, and the target audiences. They determine the information needs of the various target audiences. They then begin to gather information based on the information requirements of these audiences.

  • Information Needs Assessment and Audience Analysis. Identification of the target audiences and target audience populations and densities must be developed during the planning stages of operations with target audience assessments. Upon assessment of target audiences and consideration of which type of information product will best serve each audience, commanders must ensure adequate public affairs personnel, equipment (to include communications), resources and funds are available and included in OPLANS/OPORDS to achieve mission success. An assessment of soldier information needs is crucial to the information package development and the selection of appropriate products.

  • Information Gathering. Information gathering is the first step in producing packages for release to internal and external audiences. Public affairs personnel gather information through operational, administrative, logistical, battle, staff, command and support channels. They also acquire information through the media, research, leaders and the culture at large. Information may be obtained via electronic and telecommunication systems in addition to written documents and oral communications. While information often comes from superior and subordinate commands, it may also be obtained laterally.

  • Sources of information must be valid and diverse enough to provide a broad overview. Public Affairs staffs must ensure the source does not speculate, nor speak out of his area of expertise. However, soldiers' experiences and personal opinions may lend credibility and provide a "grass-roots" view.


5-17. During this phase, the ISS begins to develop products, prepare them for release and determine methods for distrubition.

  • Product Development. Development of information products is performed to some degree by PA personnel at all Public Affairs levels and is an on-going process. The term "product," as used in this process, means the message for intended communication, regardless of the format or communication channel proposed. Initial production development may be command directed or initiated by the Public Affairs staff or provided by other Army agencies. The command's resources and the target audience's requirements will determine the product type.

  • Prepare products. Information packages should be prepared in accordance with Public Affairs Guidance, Soldiers' Manuals, Field Manuals, SOPs and Army Regulations. Ultimately, the Public Affairs staff is responsible for content.

  • Media Forms/Methods. Soldiers use a variety of technologies to gather information and produce information products. During the gathering process, PA soldiers conduct interviews, attend briefings, withdraw data from government and commercial computer databases, bulletin boards, and e-mail systems. They acquire text, graphics, photography and motion video from government and commercial Internet systems. The nature, distribution, usability and flexibility of public affairs systems are crucial in the processing of information.

  • Professional quality systems should be used whenever possible. For printed products, preferred systems include computers, desktop publishing, word processing, laser printing, etc. Reproduction may be Army-contracted, Army-funded or reproduced using the command's assets. Video and audio products intended for release to news media should attempt to be broadcast-industry standard.

  • Electronic newsgathering and editing systems should be used when available. Visual products should be generated by modern methods including digital imagery and computer graphics.

  • Print. Articles released to home station for military publications and family support group publications; for marketing to civilian publications; field publications, e.g. newsletters, with and without photography.

  • Video. Raw electronic news gathering video and printed news scripts for release to military and civilian outlets.

  • Audio. Radio interviews; features; internal command information scripts; radio news; news reports for release to military and civilian outlets.

  • Visual. Digital imagery; photographs; slides, view graphs; graphics for release to military and civilian print and broadcast media.

  • Digital. Each of the categories described above may be developed and distributed electronically, either through commercial information services directly on the Internet, or by using tactical Army communications systems (SINCGARS and ATCCS). Modern technology in use on the battlefield has made digital transmission the preferred method for all types of products.


5-18. Security at the source. No information strategy is complete without a clear cut understanding of how to protect the information. Both sides can benefit from information and use information simultaneously against each other. Pieces of the right information can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of an operation. Public Affairs professionals will continue to protect vital information by practicing security at the source and following established operational security guidelines.

5-19. In addition to protecting the raw and completed information products, public affairs personnel must also take the necessary steps to protect information networks.


5-20. Dissemination. Public Affairs information packages should be released in the format most easily used by the recipient. While this is not always possible, a product stands less chance of being used if it is incompatible with the recipients' equipment. For example, a video product released on Hi-8 to a TV station that works exclusively with Beta SP has less a chance of being aired than a video story in a compatible format.

5-21. Public Affairs information packages must be expedited to the users by the most technologically advanced reliable method. Great consideration must be given to the speed and reliability of the mode of dissemination. This must be included in target audience assessments and conducted during planning stages of operations. Articles and photos may be sent from deployed locations to home stations via computer systems and telephone lines. Yet based on the quality of the telecommunications system, it may be more reliable to use the mail or a courier. As technology improves PA capabilities, Public Affairs will incorporate those improvements into the information gathering and dissemination system to increase its potential to reach an ever-growing, information-hungry public. For example, the emergence of smaller, more powerful satellite link ups can provide PA elements the ability to reach targeted audiences sooner and from more locations.

5-22. Internal information packages must be available to soldiers at all levels of command. Public Affairs must develop and coordinate a distribution scheme with the commander, the general staff, and with signal as the proponent for physical distribution of certain commercial news and information products. An efficient distribution system will also ensure prompt delivery of public affairs products. The public affairs staff must conduct periodic quality control checks and update the distribution scheme as necessary, based on changing population densities or information products. Electronic means are the preferred mode of distribution, however additional methods include, but are not limited to contract delivery, AG distribution and the military postal system.

5-23. Products for distribution to deployed soldiers. Publications produced by other military agencies intended for deployed soldiers must be given the same distribution considerations as commercial information packages. For example Stars & Stripes, Soldiers Magazine, Army Trainer and home station post newspapers contracted for delivery to deployed soldiers must be given the same distribution considerations as other publications. However, a separate distribution scheme may be required.


5-24. The final step in the Information Provision function is the evaluation of our communication efforts. Evaluating communications programs is research, which boils down to a series of questions:

  • Did we achieve our objectives?
  • Were our policies and programs effectively communicated?
  • Was the operation affected positively by our efforts?
  • Did the American public support our soldiers? Was unit cohesion enhanced?
  • What audiences received our messages? What was the impact of our communication programs on these audiences?
  • Research is the foundation of the Information Program Evaluation. Corrections and changes in courses of action should be based on solid factual information. Methods for conducting Information Program research are discussed in greater detail in Appendix P.



5-25. Modern technology has provided us with an advanced form of communications structure called non-hierarchical structure. The advantage of non-hierarchical communication structuring is that every "node" in a communications web shares information with every other "node". Each node on a network can identify itself and "find" others in the network in order to communicate specific information. Public Affairs elements act as information nodes, gathering, developing and sharing information vertically and horizontally on the battlefield.

5-26. While this technology was originally intended for command and control, it is essential for other functions on the battlefield as well. Well-coordinated public affairs operations will leverage this capability to move information -- sending messages around the battlefield, to and from home station, and up and down the chain of command.

5-27. The end state of this technology effort is that both organizations and individual soldiers on the battlefield will possess this capability.


5-28. Information technology provides the means to collect, process, display, develop and disseminate information in an unparalleled manner. This technology has begun to revolutionize our approach to information provision.

5-29. The PA specialist now has the ability to access desired information on a certain issue and tailor and develop this information into a message for dissemination -- all from a personal laptop computer.

5-30. This "from anywhere to anywhere" capability allows the PA specialist at all echelons to accomplish his mission of presenting the Army's perspective -- framing issues and informing targeted audiences.

5-31. There are two telecommunication systems available to Army PA specialists: DoD's internal secure communication network, known as the Defense Data Network (DDN) and the worldwide commercial information network -- Internet. PA specialists must be familiar with both.


5-32. Defense link is an entry point to Internet sites operated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the armed services and related defense agencies. It provides a means to search and download Department of Defense directives, obtain transcripts of important speeches and connect to other sites dealing with specific military operations.

5-33. The Department of Defense organizations are extensively represented on the Defense Data Network. Each of the military services has a centralized directory of its Internet sites. Army Link, as its name suggests is a catalog or hotlist of more than 280 Army home pages. The sites are indexed alphabetically and by subject area.


5-34. The Internet is a network of networks. Originally, the Internet was developed by DoD with the goal of building a automation system linking government agencies together which would continue to function in case part of the network ceased to exist. From this inception, the Internet grew, as other agencies and activities noticed the benefit of linked telecommunications. The system now includes organizations from all segments of society: government, defense, business, education, health services, etc. There are more than 30,000 networks participating on the Internet and more than 150 million individual users. And more are connecting everyday.

5-35. Army Public Affairs personnel have access to the Internet through their local Directorate of Information Management (DOIM).

5-36. On the Internet, there are six main activities: "Hypertext" documents with multimedia links on the World Wide Web can be viewed, files can be downloaded with a file transfer program or "FTP," data can be located, communication via e-mail, reading and posting messages to news groups and bulletin boards, and logging in to remote computers using Telnet.

5-37. You can do most of the same things in the Internet that you can do on any of the commercial information services, but you do them in the context of a much larger network that isn't centrally organized or controlled.

5-38. World Wide Web. The World Wide Web, also known as WWW, W3, or simply the Web, is one of the most popular activities on the Internet. The Web allows you to view documents that feature graphics, "hypertext" (text which contains highlighted keywords which are linked to other documents or information sources available on Web) and multimedia links. The hypertext and multimedia links are tied to other documents or information forms that might be on the same computer, one across the country, or a machine on the other side of the world.

5-39. The WWW contains thousands of main menus, called "home pages" which identify the various sub-categories at each web site. Web users can search using key words or locations through the lists of home pages for specific web sites.

5-40. Gophers. A gopher is a menu driven system that offers text only. Users of the web can access gopher sites and retrieve information. It is a predecessor of the Web.

5-41. News groups. They are discussion groups built around a particular topic. Some are managed, others are not. News Groups take two forms: Mailing List: A list of E-mail addresses to which messages are sent. You can subscribe to a mailing lists typically by sending an email to the contact address with the following in the body of the message: the word subscribe, the name of the list, and your email address. Discussion groups: A particular section within the USENET system typically, though not always, dedicated to a particular subject of interest. Also known as a newsgroup. USENET is a collection of the thousands of bulletin boards residing on the Internet. Each bulletin board contains discussion groups, or newsgroups, dedicated to a myriad of topics. Messages are posted and responded to by readers either as public or private E-mails.

5-42. E-mail. E-mail is a means of interpersonal communication that falls somewhere between the immediacy of a phone conversation and the more thoughtful but slower exchange of ideas previously done by writing letters and memos. The specifics of using it vary greatly according to the mail software being used.

5-43. Commercial On-line Information Services. Users cannot directly dial up to the Internet using a modem, but must gain access through an internet service provider. Many offices, universities and large businesses provide access for their employees. For access at home, a user can either subscribe to one of the commercial on-line services, which provide Internet access in addition to their other features or to one of the dedicated Internet server companies located in most cities.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias