"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 in 1983

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 policy limitation.
  • Analysis of the existing military and political situation.
  • 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.

    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.

    Mission Assignment

    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.

    Plan Preparation

    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 assets.

    Media Selection

    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 time.

    Propaganda Development

    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

    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 audience responses.


    This is the basis for modification of plans and operations.


    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.


    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 foreign language.
  • 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 sympathy abroad.
  • Keep all promises; if uncertain of ability to deliver, don't promise.
  • Security permitting, warn civilians of impending artillery fires, naval gunfire, and aerial bombardment.

    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 society.

  • 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 policy.
  • 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 their needs.
  • 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.

    A 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).

  • In 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.
  • A 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.
  • In 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.


  • The 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 material.
  • In preparing a message or line of persuasion, avoid abstractions if possible. Make maximum use of specific and factual examples and photographs.
  • If abstractions are used, define them in the simplest terms.
  • Relate 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 sentence.
  • Since the target has a different background and frame of reference, do not use unfamiliar idiomatic expressions or jargon. Use clear and complete statements.
  • Develop 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?"
  • Use the 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 expressions.