Propaganda Planning Process: The West Aims - Sequences,
Situation And Solution
3 March 2010
"Propaganda Planning" is based upon
"Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1"
published in August 1979 by Department of the Army
Headquarters in Washington DC; and "Psychological
Operations (PSYOP) Media Subcourse PO-0816" by The
Army Institute for Professional Development, published
Propaganda planning is a continuous process
requiring imagination and determination. It must be
responsive to immediate change brought about by any
new condition or circumstance affecting the target
audience or the psychological objective. The resulting
plan is also subject to change.
The propaganda planning process must be flexible.
Targets of opportunity should be exploited as they
arise. Opportunities to exploit a vulnerability may be
lost by inflexible insistence on implementing the
original plan. Vulnerabilities, conditions, target
audiences, objectives, and themes often change rapidly
due to shifts in events and policies. Planning may
precede or follow the decision to carry out a course
of action. Whether the planning precedes or follows
the decision, the ingredients are essentially the same
for any PSYOP Psychological Operations) plan. For
example, contingency plans follow the same pattern;
they cover a variety of situations, such as the end of
hostilities, intervention by other nations, the use of
new weapons, changes in political conditions, and
changes in the military situation. Contingency plans
are designed to be implemented immediately upon order
when the anticipated and prepared for event occurs.
Realistic objectives that can be achieved within
Analysis of the existing military and political
Sources of information.
Delineation of the target and its accessibility.
Themes to be used to achieve PSYOP objectives.
Themes to be avoided.
Media to be employed.
Formal staffing and coordination required to
effect the plan.
PROPAGANDA PLANNING SEQUENCE
The sequence of steps taken to plan a psychological
operation will vary with the situation; however, the
same steps apply to any PSYOP planning. As a first
step, PSYOP personnel constantly gather information
relevant to the area of operations. This intelligence
focuses on subjects of PSYOP interest. The material,
gathered from numerous sources and analyzed, is placed
in a Basic PSYOP Study (BPS).
Target analysis is a major action in campaign
development. It is an examination of intelligence to
permit the analyst to establish a list of
psychological objectives to guide PSYOP personnel in
conducting psychological operations.
A support mission can be given to a PSYOP unit at
any time during the propaganda planning sequence prior
to the initiation of campaign control. Upon receipt of
a PSYOP mission, the PSYOP personnel follow the
routine decision making steps.
PSYOP Estimate of the Situation
The commander's decision regarding PSYOP support of
the mission is made from the estimate of the situation
document. The estimate should, above all else, make
clear the psychological impact of the commander's
proposed courses of action.
After the commander announces his decision,
plans/annexes tasking the major subordinate elements
with the responsibility to accomplish the propaganda
tasks are prepared. The same plans provide the
commander with sufficient PSYOP support to accomplish
the tasks. The PSYOP unit commander makes
recommendations for the employment of the PSYOP
Selection of Media to transmit messages is based on
the information revealed during target analysis. The
analysis determines the type of media that is
acceptable and credible to the target audience. The
planner must also consider the availability and
mechanical capability of the media to deliver the
message. For example, if television is selected, the
audience must have access to compatible receivers.
Early in the planning stage, consideration must be
given to the time required for production and
delivery. The message must be delivered at the needed
Propaganda development is the process of taking
information, knowledge, and material available,
visualizing it all, and expressing it as artwork,
words, symbols, texts, manuscripts, and actions.
A pretest to determine the probable impact of
propaganda material upon the target audience and
unintended audience should be accomplished using the
appropriate techniques. The best sounding board for
pretesting is a cross section of the target audience.
If these people are not available, a panel of those
most similar to the target audience should be used.
Campaign control involves the production and
dissemination of propaganda material.
Posttesting and pretesting techniques are the same,
but the same personnel must not be used on both
testing procedures. In addition, posttesting
discussions must be concerned with the reasons for
This is the basis for modification of plans and
IMPROVING THE PRODUCT
Successful propaganda is both credible and
persuasive. Building credibility requires consistency
and time. Of the many factors entering into the
establishment of credibility, one of the most
important is an accurate target analysis. Credibility
will be enhanced when the themes relate to the needs
and wants of the target audience and are kept within
their frame of reference. Experience indicates that
the persuasiveness of propaganda to a hostile audience
is increased when the propaganda is objective and
indirect-the more hostile the audience, the more
objective and indirect the propaganda.
Personal messages for delivery or transmission to
individuals or groups in a target audience by a former
associate or relative should contain intimate details
known only to the source. They should be a means of
identification to the intended audience. In addition,
the source must be clearly identified with sufficient
information so there is no doubt as to his identity.
This reinforces the credibility of the message.
AVOIDING THE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
The following statements apply in limited, general,
and cold war:
In a foreign internal defense situation, avoid
propaganda that places the host country in a secondary
position. US Army psychological operations support
host country efforts.
Do not use terms, weights, or measures that are
foreign to the target audience.
Do not translate directly from English to a
Instead, give the linguist an idea or concept and
have the concept phrased in the local language.
Do not add credence to enemy propaganda through
words or actions.
Make definite positive statements.
Avoid the negative.
Do not appear uncertain.
When preparing messages for dissemination, follow
the rule that any statement or action which can be
misinterpreted will be misinterpreted.
Do not distribute propaganda that can be easily
altered by the enemy to their advantage.
Avoid themes to which host country and enemy
troops are equally vulnerable.
Do not insult or anger the target audience. Keep
their minds open and their emotions friendly.
Do not use strong threats. Use threats only to
meet or arouse a need, and present them as facts.
Do not give free publicity to enemy atrocities in
the host country. Use enemy atrocities to gain
Keep all promises; if uncertain of ability to
deliver, don't promise.
Security permitting, warn civilians of impending
artillery fires, naval gunfire, and aerial
A psychological objective is derived from the
mission. It may be a single step or a series of steps
designed to lead the target audience toward the
behavior or attitude desired to accomplish the
propaganda mission. Changes in conditions may bring
about changes in psychological objectives.
Psychological objectives are classified as:
Cohesive. Those whose achievement would strengthen
or more closely unite the society or target group.
Divisive. Those designed to separate the
individual from his group, separate a group from other
groups or a society, or disorganize a group or
A theme is a subject, topic, or line of persuasion
used to achieve psychological objectives by exploiting
existing vulnerabilities. Themes are the bridge
between propaganda opportunity and the response which
the psychological operator is trying to elicit.
Each theme should stand alone. It must, however,
be coordinated with all relevant agencies to insure
consistency and support for national objectives and
Each theme should deal with only one subject. Do
not complicate a theme by trying to achieve several
objectives. Use separate themes for each objective.
Themes should be selected to persuade the target
audience to adopt the course of action wanted by the
psychological operator. The audience is motivated by
telling them what action is desired, why it is
desirable to them, and then showing how it fulfills
Do not use negative themes to achieve positive
action, as they tend to be counterproductive.
Make surrender/defector appeals on safe-conduct
passes. Insure that the leaflets on which the appeals
are made state that they are safe-conduct passes.
State that surrender may be made without a pass.
Stress that surrender may be made to any unit. Inform
all US/friendly units of the surrender/defection
policy, so that those enemy who try to surrender or
defect are not shot in the attempt.
Defection and desertion appeals are used to
encourage individuals or groups among enemy forces to
place personal considerations above group interests.
Desertion/defection appeals should give absolute,
specific assurance of good treatment, and cite
honorable and worthy reasons for desertion or
defection. When appropriate, use defectors to
criticize their own government and military forces.
Their message is personal and will have a greater
effect than that of outsiders.
Family appeals are very effective, but should be
disseminated in the enemy area only; if they are
circulated where friendly troops prevail, they may
cause desertion among host country troops.
Explaining the presence of foreign troops in the
country is a major task. Items prepared to explain
this presence should be pretested extensively to
insure they cannot be misinterpreted as boasting.
Similarities of culture and national goals between the
host country and the US should be stressed.
Differences between the host country/allies and the
United States should be deemphasized.
propaganda message is a communication with the purpose
of bringing about an action and an attitude. Before it
can accomplish its purpose, it must get a hearing by
the designated receiver (target).
brief, a message must be received, be understood, be
believed, offer a solution, and bring about a desired
result. Given a policy, intelligence, a target,
themes, and appraisal of the desired results, the
propagandist composes his message. He must construct,
time, and transmit his message so that, even though in
competition with considerable other material being
presented to the target, it gets a hearing. The target
must understand the message and give it the
interpretation intended by the propagandist.
propaganda message must arouse or stimulate needs. It
must cause an action or bring about an attitude
desired by the propagandist. This requires that the
message tell the target how to satisfy its needs-by
following the course of action desired by the
propagandist. This, in turn, requires that the actions
(urged openly or implied) be appropriate and important
to the target. In order to get the action or attitude
desired, the message must, in the opinion of the
target, offer the best solution (or the only logical
one) toward solving the problem addressed or in
fulfilling target needs.
essence, the propagandist must take all necessary
steps to assure that the action he desires will
succeed and that the action he does not desire will
have the least opportunity to appeal to the target;
i.e., that the undesired action will fail.
propaganda message should be clear, concise, and
coherent-a precise item without extraneous material;
everything in it must contribute to the whole message,
providing a coherent flow without the use of filler
preparing a message or line of persuasion, avoid
abstractions if possible. Make maximum use of specific
and factual examples and photographs.
abstractions are used, define them in the simplest
the message to the everyday life of the audience.
Since the target is suspicious and will look for
hidden unfavorable meanings, insure that only one
interpretation, the intended one, can be given each
the target has a different background and frame of
reference, do not use unfamiliar idiomatic expressions
or jargon. Use clear and complete statements.
thoughts in the logical sequence of the language used
by the target audience. Do not leave any thoughts for
the target to fill in. The key question to ask is,
"Does the audience understand what it means?"
level of language that is correct for the literacy
level of the target audience. For semiliterates, it is
best to use their regional dialects and idiomatic