Oct 12, 2007

You Can't Polish a Turd

A concise explanation of why all the time, effort and funds that the U.S. has poured into Iraq war information programs amount to an ultimately futile endeavor:

Successful strategic communication assumes a defensible policy, a respectable identity, a core value. In commercial marketing, the product for sale must be well-made and desirable. The strategic communication stratagem hasn’t been built that can pull a poor policy decision out of trouble. [emphasis added] ...

Crafting the message is a critical factor. This can be hard work, and strategic communication should begin while a policy is being fashioned, not added later. All too often, strategic decisions are made without considering how various audiences will receive them. President John F. Kennedy, as he put his administration together in 1961, asked the preeminent television newscaster of the time, Edward R. Murrow, to become head of the US Information Agency. Murrow reluctantly agreed but set one condition, that he be consulted when decisions were being made, not just when things went wrong. "If you want me to be there on the crash-landings," he is reported to have told the President, "I better be there on the takeoff."

Above excerpt from Strategic Communication by Richard Halloran [11-page pdf] (Parameters, Autumn 2007 issue).

And from a different article in the same issue of Parameters [Propaganda: Can a Word Decide a War? by Dennis M. Murphy and James F. White][13-page pdf], the identical point is made:

Procedurally, the United States must approach strategic communication as an integral part of policy development. To do otherwise will doom the United States to remain on the defensive in the war of ideas, something that has not worked well to date. The resulting communication plans will still be viewed as propaganda by the definition provided at the beginning of this article, but having such a plan in the development process permits strategists to anticipate potentially negative foreign reaction and possesses the proactive ability to explain the policy to all audiences. On the other hand, poor policy will not be salvaged by any message or theme that attempts to explain it. As former Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke said, "You can put a lot of lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."


Adrian said...

True that you can't make people like you if your policies suck, but you can at least make the other side look even worse. We can't even do that (and we're given 'ideal' material to work with, too).

Meatball One said...

At first sounding, that sounds true. I gotta think a bit more about that one though. Relativity...that's always been a tricky niche of physics for me to wrap my little head around.

More later..