A Theory of Strategic Communication: ‘like an orchestra producing harmony’

DOD OSD PA Theory of Strategic Communication: like an orchestra producing harmony

This is Part II of two posts on describing “Strategic Communication”. Part I is here.

In addition to the principles of strategic communication, the Defense Department developed the graphical representation of Strategic Communication show above.

Several points to raise with those new to this slide. The analogy of SC as an orchestra has at its middle, the conductor representing the collection of senior leaders, a music score as the SC plan, and an orchestra made up of various SC communities of practice and lines of operation

The “orchestra” can be reconfigured for the desired effect. It can become “strolling strings” or anything else as it reshaped, resized, and repurposed. The tempo, sound, etc. may vary, depending on the desired effect.

First, to me, it best represents a point rather than a dynamic model of action. The iterative process in the slide is controlled by the conductor in a discipline of message and action. This does not fit reality nor should it. Our engagement should not be and cannot be a constant, choreographed message and action stream. Operating in this way, even it was possible, create vulnerabilities in a dynamic environment with multiple, flexible actors.

In the ‘orchestra’ model, when a ‘musician’ hits a flat note, misses the cue entirely, or performs something not on the sheet, the error is prominent. A better analogy, if one must be made, is a jazz jam session. It puts the model into motion. The jazz jam would be a dynamic environment where bad notes don’t stand out as well; members loosely interact, they riff independently or off each other, while all are headed in the same direction. This provides for intentional and unintentional liberty, or deviations, not permitted in the orchestra model.

Second, it is essential to acknowledge the U.S. public and U.S. media are stakeholders and intended audiences, an apt phrase, as this slide does. They, like the allies, adversaries, and neutrals (a collection that includes “swing voters”) are targets of what we say, do, and fail to say and do. The adversary is very good at exploiting our “say-do gap”. We must become skilled in not only preventing this gap but at increasing awareness of the adversaries’ (plural) own shortcomings, which we are terrible at doing.

Third, the model implies a level of calibration that is difficult in a war of perceptions. Orchestra conductors aren’t known for taking feedback, but the graphical representation outweighs the need for an asterisk saying the conductor here will accept dynamic input.

More to come on this. In the meantime, please comment. 

One thought on “A Theory of Strategic Communication: ‘like an orchestra producing harmony’

  1. I like the analogy of the ‘jazz jam’. Makes sense in the ‘rugged landscape’ of finding the right tune/message, and allows extemporising on a theme. For all the reasons you state, the orchestra motif falls a bit flat. At the moment, most agents have the same score but are playing different passages in their own bubbles.

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