Times outs Spin doctor at the Pentagon

This Sunday's New York Times' article on the Bush administration's use of military analysts to promote favorable messages on the war in Iraq, and...

This Sunday's New York Times' article on the Bush administration's use of military analysts to promote favorable messages on the war in Iraq, and its larger one on terrorism, included a nearly breathless account of the PR executive who executed the Pentagon's strategy to win over the airways by allegedly offering the retired military officers exclusive pow-wows with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as personal tours of Iraq where some of the men's companies were eager to begin buying and selling. A must-read for PR professionals, the research heavy article (the Times sued the Defense Dept. to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts, and other records) takes up 11 pages of the Times online space.

One example from the Times story:
Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.

In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” — authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.

The Times goes on to point to Clarke's ingenuity:
Other administrations had made sporadic, small-scale attempts to build relationships with the occasional military analyst. But these were trifling compared with what Ms. Clarke’s team had in mind. Don Meyer, an aide to Ms. Clarke, said a strategic decision was made in 2002 to make the analysts the main focus of the public relations push to construct a case for war. Journalists were secondary. “We didn’t want to rely on them to be our primary vehicle to get information out,” Mr. Meyer said.

By using covert messaging, the Times article points out, the administration was able to present its points through these "analysts" as third-party independents, rather than people receiving talking points and op-ed writing tips direct from the Pentagon.

To complete the ruse, the "Pentagon’s regular press office would be kept separate from the military analysts. The analysts would instead be catered to by a small group of political appointees, with the point person being Brent T. Krueger, another senior aide to Ms. Clarke," the article continued.

"The military analysts would in effect be “writing the op-ed” for the war, Krueger noted to the Times.

The PR campaign was complete when the administration's comms team, "was able to click on every single station and every one of our folks were up there delivering our message. You’d look at them and say, ‘This is working,’ ” Krueger told the Times.

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