You must be agile to be effective in the global information environment

The presidential campaign was a close-to-home example of how speed is essential to modern campaigns of informing and persuading. You must be quick and adept in your response lest your adversary beat you with an effective blow, truthful or not. Truth may be the greatest ally in any struggle for minds and wills from presidential politics to countering Al-Qaeda propaganda in Iraq. But truth is useless if you can’t get the word out.

A barrier to getting the word out includes not having “public affairs authority” to release a statement, or video to counter, or even preempt, adversarial narratives of all sorts of engagements. Only when the media, or the media consumer, is hostage to you does this work. If they have an alternative, even an adversary with a questionable or non-existent track record on the use of facts, they’ll go. The cause is most often a zero-defect approach to information, which is laudable, but this can be costly.

Today, I had the “pleasure” of again witnessing the challenge of not having PA authority. A request for interview came to me. I wasn’t the guy (not geographically desirable, plus there are better people to speak on the subject) so I forwarded the time-sensitive request to others. Of the several key individuals I pinged, all were well-qualified and eager to talk but unable to go on the record within the required window of time because they lacked PA authority. (Another was temporarily geographically undesirable, so that person doesn’t count here.) The result: the requestor went with someone else. In this case, the ‘someone else’ is fortunately a very knowledgeable and smart person that will give a top answer, however this person is tangential to the subject matter and not the preferred respondent. In other cases, we may not be so lucky.

These people were all educated, equipped, and (to some degree) encouraged to communicate (they were at least interested or enthusiastic). What they lacked was empowerment. We can debate the merits of centralized messaging, as well as the demerits, however in the fire hose of the global information environment, the ability to respond swiftly (and of course accurately) matters.