Media is the Battlefield
Integration of Information Operations into Planning and Operations, Public Affairs and the Media
Extract from Center for Army Lessons Learned Initial Impressions Report 05-3 Information Operations
In most brigade areas of operations (AOs) in theater, the public affairs (PA) officer (PAO), information operations (IO) coordinator, and psychological operations (PSYOP) representatives are integrating and employing sound communications strategies. This integration may be attributed to smaller staff size and heightened command interest and control at brigade-sized units. The smaller staff size at brigade level contributes to successful integration of specialty elements because each specialty usually has only one representative at the brigade headquarters. The three brigade specialty staff officers most directly involved in communications operations – PA, IO, and PSYOP – tend to drift together and begin integrating their efforts.
Command interest and influence is also a contributing factor to increased integration of PA, IO, civil affairs, and PSYOP at brigade level. The commander of a brigade-sized unit insisted on a proactive information campaign for every civil-military operation (CMO) in his brigade AO. Coverage of each CMO project was an ongoing effort, beginning with announcements at the start of a project, progress updates during work, and a media event or ceremony at completion. The commander placed heavy emphasis on the distribution of photographs and dissemination of updated information. PA and PSYOP became the primary tools to disseminate information and plan and execute media events.
At higher levels of command, IO components are not as well coordinated. At these levels, the lack of a CMO project roll-up limits the ability to determine if a project has received media coverage. The opportunity to leverage local, national, and international media coverage of more than one billion dollars’ worth of CMO “good news” projects in theater has not been fully realized.
- The small staff size at brigade level seems to contribute to successful integration of the specialty elements of PA, IO, and PSYOP.
- CMO projects must have visibility to receive media attention. After spending more than a billion dollars on CMO in Iraq, a very small percentage was leveraged as positive media coverage.
Some forms of media collection and evaluation are being accomplished at various levels throughout the theater. However, an analysis process has not been formalized, and information is not shared across staffs and levels of command. Nearly every IO staff interviewed had established some form of a media collection cell or was using media data collected by other staff sections to assist them in developing themes, messages, and measures of effectiveness (MOE). In two units, IO Soldiers and native Iraqi speakers staffed the cell. In another, the PSYOP and open-source intelligence staff performed media analysis tasks and would give the product to the IO staff upon request.
Various PA desk officers throughout the corps conduct informal media monitoring of Web-based news each morning and periodically throughout the day. However, this process is not formalized, no formal analysis is being conducted, nor is trend data being captured. Unit PA sections were not robust enough to perform this function, and unit G2 sections were not involved in media analysis. Although almost every unit believed their IO section was undermanned, most dedicated assets to media analysis because of the importance they placed on it as a gauge to assist them in developing IO products and evaluating MOE.
Multinational Forces-Iraq and Multinational Coalition-Iraq recognize the benefit and utility of having Arab media analysis. However, staff members are not aware of the media analysis products already available. One unit PAO wanted to contract for media analysis solely because he was not aware of media products readily available to him from Central Command, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Deputy Director for Information Operations.
Above major subordinate command (MSC) level, PAO analysis efforts of Iraqi/Arab media are limited to one contract Iraqi translator physically reviewing daily stories that appear in the top five Iraqi newspapers. The translator’s primary focus is to look for statements made by key people and the type of media coverage major events received. This PA section needs resources to conduct more in-depth, quantitative, qualitative, and trend media analysis.
Media analysis is a critical component of PA in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Timely, in-depth, quantitative, qualitative, and trend media analysis is required to support PAO activities and overall IO efforts.
- MSC PA modification tables of organization and equipment (MTOE) do not adequately support wartime activities. Current IO and PA organization structure does not support the conduct of formal, in-depth media analysis at the MSCs or higher levels. MSCs and higher PA organizations are not resourced to support basic wartime theater requirements without significant augmentation. Formal, in-depth media analysis is an additional requirement that requires additional resources.
- Unit IO staffs received inadequate training in media analysis prior to their deployment in theater.
- The PAO school does not currently teach in-depth, formal media analysis processes.
- Few IO or PA personnel are aware of available Arab media analysis products.
One MSC audience analysis resulted in identifying a diverse mix of audiences. Various messages, channels, and techniques were required to reach each audience. During day-to-day activities, the MSCs have primary contact with a variety of media outlets working in their AO. These media include a mix of international wire services, reporters, and correspondents, as well as local Iraqi/Arab media.
The PAO selects the target media, to which story ideas are provided, based on the type of event and IO planning considerations. For some events, the MSC holds combined press conferences that are open to all media operating in the AO. For other events, the MSC holds Arab-only press conferences.
- Units identified the value of beginning key audience analysis and planning before deploying from home station.
- Close analysis of target audiences is needed to address cultural differences that may create a need for special communications channels.
The media cycle in Iraq and the Middle East tends to be faster than in the West. Local customs dictate that the remains of the dead be buried as soon as possible, often the day of death. Products supporting IO, such as flyers, television spots, or statements that highlight IO messages surrounding a fatal event, are far less effective if not “on the street” within 24 to 36 hours, if not sooner. Terrorist groups often produce somewhat crude (but effective) flyers very quickly after one of their members is killed. They flood the streets with these flyers to stir emotions among the populace. Following an incident in which Arab noncombatants are killed or wounded by non-Arab forces, Arab media will often play and replay the images on television. This endless loop video technique is extremely effective in stirring strong emotions among people who otherwise would be indifferent. If coalition forces take 48 to 96 hours to investigate, vet messages, engage media, and disseminate, the impressions of the event as portrayed by Arab media are already fixed in the minds of the target audiences.
One corps-sized unit PAO reports that the PA staff is limited to rebutting incorrect information appearing in the media, rather than taking more direct counter-propaganda efforts. The corps PA planning officer stated that it is hard to coordinate counter-propaganda directly with the IO staff without strategic communications direction from higher headquarters. Currently, the corps PA planner and IO staff are trying to work out a system to proactively counter propaganda without specific guidance from above.
In addition to a lack of higher-level guidance, the corps is further restrained by the lack of internal assets for countering propaganda or rebutting incorrect information. Most PA resources in theater that can be applied to the effort reside at the Coalition Press Information Center (CPIC), an asset of the senior military headquarters in theater. The CPIC is located at the convention center in downtown Baghdad, in close proximity to the hotel complex where the majority of western and international media have established bureau offices. The CPIC maintains the most up-to-date contacts for all Arab/Iraqi media operating in theater. The location, organization, and systems of the CPIC make it the most appropriate tool to rebut incorrect information and reactively counter propaganda. In this process, the corps PAO becomes an intermediary, passing incidents of incorrect media reporting to the CPIC for resolution.
Operational-level PA enable lower headquarters to counter propaganda by pushing PA down as required for particular events, such as brigade or battalion media days, press conferences, or other operations. These efforts could be considered proactive tactical counter-propaganda; however, there is little planning and coordination with IO and no counter-propaganda guidance or strategic communication direction from higher headquarters.
Two MSC PAOs hired Iraqis with media experience to be their commands’ Arab/Iraqi media coordinators. When the commands schedule events that are open to the media, the PAOs notify the coordinators, who in turn notify the Iraqi media of the media opportunity. The MSCs frequently provide transportation for journalists desiring to cover events to facilitate the coverage from Iraqi and Arab media. Reporters attending the event are free to write what they want and receive no pressure to provide positive coverage from the coordinator or the command. One MSC began a loosely organized group of media operating in the MSC area, the Baghdad Press Club, to identify media opportunities and facilitate media notification. The Iraqi media coordinator used the group’s membership list to identify, choose, and contact agencies to attend media events. The coordinator does not limit invitations to agencies that provide positive media coverage of the coalition. Attempts are made to engage top Iraqi/Arab and western agencies, even though some are habitually pro-coalition, neutral, and anti-coalition.
- Coalition commanders and staffs need to formulate, approve, produce, and disseminate products supporting IO within hours after an event. Coalition IO planners should be prepared to sacrifice polish for rapid production.
- Strategic communications guidance is required to achieve a proactive, integrated counter-propaganda effort from PA.
- PA assets for a counter-propaganda effort or major media operations are available at the CPIC level.
- The CPIC usually maintains the most up-to-date information for media operating in theater.
One of the greatest challenges for brigade PAOs is getting subordinate battalions to engage news media representatives. One brigade PAO says this is usually a function of the battalion commander’s personality. Some battalion commanders openly welcome media, while others only accept media when directly ordered to do so by the brigade commander.
Brigade PAOs are instrumental in planning, coordinating, and executing the media embed program. In the current Iraq theater, brigades operate AOs that are geographically and culturally different from each other. The differences in each brigade AO present unique opportunities for news media.
Brigades receive few requests for embedding from Arab/Iraqi news media representatives. One brigade PAO reported that he understood there was reluctance on the part of the Arab/Iraqi journalists to embed because they were concerned for their safety. Arab/Iraqi journalists said they do not like to be seen traveling with U.S. forces, and they do not like to be out at night. They are afraid that they may be perceived as working with U.S. and coalition forces.
In one MSC, the PAO realized that one of the key IO objectives, to put an Iraqi face on the reconstruction efforts, was not being accomplished because the responses to media queries were being answered predominantly by coalition members and not by Iraqi officials. This MSC PAO staff had earned a reputation of being very responsive to news media queries. News media operating in the area grew accustomed to dealing with the PAO and developed the habit of simply querying the coalition as the primary source for all information. The PAO staff consistently provided the news media with what they needed, a quick response from a credible source in a position of authority in control of the situation. However, this responsiveness did not help to accomplish prescribed IO objectives.
The PAO began to refer news media representatives to the appropriate Iraqi agency, official, or office for responses. Although this process took longer to get information to the media, it enabled the command to better realize its IO objectives while still meeting the information requirements of the news media organizations. Coordinating responses from appropriate Iraqi officials or organizations provided the command the opportunity to build support for Iraqi authorities. At the same time, the command’s PAO remained very engaged in the process.
Iraqi officials and organizations require additional support and tutelage from coalition PA to effectively plan; organize; and, at times, resource media events or press conferences. Although coalition forces removed themselves as lead spokespersons on events, they remained very involved behind the scenes.
- Brigade and battalion PAOs who established good working relationships with news media representatives in their AO were critical contributors to the media management mission.
- Brigades and battalions are filling PAO slots with untrained personnel. Personnel assigned to these key positions must quickly acquire an understanding of media engagement and begin building relationships with news media representatives.
- Brigade-level PAOs are vital to successful planning, coordination, and execution of the media engagement mission at the tactical level.
- Brigade PAOs spend the majority of their time planning, coordinating, and executing the media engagement mission.
- Arab/Iraqi journalists are reluctant to embed because they are concerned for their safety. Different approaches are required to engage Arab/Iraqi media.
- A locally contracted Iraqi media coordinator is vital to providing understanding and insight into the local culture and media practices. Having this person onboard leads to successful engagement with Iraqi/Arab media.
- The Press Club organization provides a structure to facilitate media contact and coverage of key media events.
- Providing transportation facilitates Arab/Iraqi media coverage of events. Arab/Iraqi media are frequently restrained from covering stories by transportation and expense factors.
- Iraqi officials and official organizations require coalition PA support and training to effectively plan, organize, and resource media events or press conferences.
Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTMLPF) Implications
- PA doctrine should commit to taking a more active role in leading news media communications activities of IO and participating in the selection and integration of themes and messages to mass information effects.
- IO doctrine should include the concept of audience analysis.
- CMO projects must be tracked as a nonlethal effect.
- PA and IO should ensure that communications contingency plans are well-coordinated with operational planners (G3 and C5 planners). Operational planners should be involved in communications contingency planning.
- Incorporate an understanding of the integration of PA activities with IO into Army doctrine so the concept, role, and relevance of PA activities as they relate to IO objectives are understood.
- PA MTOE at all levels should be changed to support requirements of wartime battle rhythm (night shift, MSC meetings, plans and operations, media escort, and other headquarters requirements).
- The PAO at all levels should remain a separate special staff position in the command, but have a direct requirement to provide expert news media communications input, coordination, and advice to IO mission planning and execution.
- A clear staff organizational structure for a brigade combat team is needed to define the relationship between special staff officers (PAOs), slice elements (tactical PSYOP detachment), and IO coordinators within the brigade.
- A trained PAO organic to the brigade is vital to successful media engagement and integrated employment of PA with IO at the tactical level.
- Organize units and staffs to support the rapid formulation, approval, production, and dissemination of products in support of IO.
- PA staffs should be organized to conduct continuous audience analysis and provide continuous support to IO.
- Few PA assets exist at the lower tactical levels, brigade and battalion, to plan and run a large, proactive counter-propaganda campaign. Ensure the CPIC organizational structure maintains the ability to provide PA assets to corps, MSCs, brigades, and battalion-sized units to meet specific IO needs.
- MSCs and/or corps-level staff organizations should designate a staff element with the responsibility and resources to conduct formal media analysis for the staff.
- Current PA doctrine (FM 3-61.1, Public Affairs Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) clearly outlines the need for and type of support PA should provide to IO. PAO training should prepare PAOs to provide expert advice to IO, fully integrate PA activities with IO, and take a leading role in the command’s news media communications efforts.
- The PA school should develop a media analysis course and export the training. IO Soldiers need training on media analysis prior to deploying into theater.
- PA integration training is necessary to ensure plans, branches, and sequels for PA and IO have the same rigor and discipline as lethal operations.
- School-train PAOs to operate independently and without immediate divisional support. Training should prepare PAOs to conduct all aspects of PA in a large and varied brigade AO.
- Provide focused training for IO and PA staff planners on crisis communications planning. Incorporate IO operations and communications contingency planning into the School for Advanced Military Studies curriculum.
- MSC- and/or corps-level IO and PA staffs should be made aware of and trained to use the analysis tools currently available.
- PAOs must be able to facilitate and train others to facilitate media engagement, including responding to queries and conducting press conferences.
- Leaders must understand the missions and organizations of PA and how to effectively integrate PA into the overall IO plan. Commanders must drive the process and force diverse staff elements to integrate and coordinate.
- Leaders need to have sufficient Iraqi cultural environment preparation training to feel comfortable and confident using messages and techniques that resonate with Iraqi cultures. Ensure that commanders understand the importance of identifying and providing resources to engage key audiences.
- Units with IO core capabilities need to have equipment (video production and transmission equipment) to provide for the rapid production of products in support of IO.
- Units need to be staffed to formulate, approve, produce, and disseminate products supporting IO within hours after an event.
- Units should have a local contract media coordinator who provides understanding and insight into the local culture and media practices. Deploying units should anticipate the need to interview and establish a contract with qualified local nationals upon deployment.
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