Enlisting Madison Avenue by RAND

Read RAND’s report Enlisting Madison Avenue (by Todd C. Helmus, Christopher Paul, Russell W. Glenn) for two reasons. First, it does a good job of laying out the realities of how perceptions are created and provides recommendations on how to operationally manage those perceptions, both proactively and retroactively. Second, MountainRunner is cited on p132 (H/T to Adrian for pointing that out).

If you’re interested in IO, PSYOP, or Public Diplomacy (PD), you should consider this report. On describing the challenges and realities of info age warfare, I didn’t find anything particularly ground breaking — a lot of the report says what this blog has written about for a while, albeit in better war (probably because they spent more time editing than I do, and because they were paid 🙂 — but it is, unfortunately, new ground for many policy makers still confused about the struggle of hearts and minds.

In the recommendations, the Madison Avenue part, their recommendation to attract followers and deny the enemy his followers is based on brand management. In this section, the authors draw deeply from both lessons from commercial branding and public diplomacy. The more important lessons from the former is reconsidering the population as customers of the product and not mistreating them to push them to what the enemy is selling. Related is understanding how actions and images are perceived and in general how to interact with the people better.

The report, after the summary and acknowledgements, begins with an appropriate quote from Presidential-candidate Eisenhower from his campaign speech in San Francisco in which he laid out his foreign policy goals. This speech is where I took the “struggle for minds and wills” mantra found on this site and it’s where the RAND authors begin as well:

We are not going to win the struggle for men’s minds merely by tripling Congressional appropriations for a super loud Voice of America. Rather it will be the planned and effective use of every means of appeal to men and women everywhere. . . . [E]verything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or fail to do, will have its impact in other lands.

As one quote in the report says: “You can’t win the hearts and minds when you’re driving people into a ditch.” Take it as both literal and figurative. This is a useful report for anybody who wants to understand modern conflict.