Leonie Industries on Measuring the Effectiveness of an Information Operations Campaign

Defence IQ Interview and Podcast with President of Leonie Industries

Leonie Industries
Leonie Industries
  • Leonie Industries
    Leonie Industries
    Leonie Industries
    Leonie Industries

Leonie Industries released the podcast interview between Richard deSilva from Defence IQ and Ed Negrelli, President of Leonie Industries here   Find the transcript below.

Introduction (by Mr. Richard DeSilva):

You’re listening to Defense IQ.  I’m Richard DeSilva and today we’re talking to Mr. Ed Negrelli, who is the President of Leonie Industries.   Leonie Industries is one of the primary corporate sponsors of this year’s Information Operations Global conference beginning from June 26th in London.

Mr. Negrelli comes from a military background, graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1976, and serving as an artilleryman and Army Ranger.  He also has a Master’s degree in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and served in command and staff assignments throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. 
After retiring from the Army, he served in a broad range of leadership and advisory positions in the Defense Industry.  In 2007, he joined Leonie Industries as a Senior Operations Research Analyst, working at JIEDDO - the Joint IED Defeat Organization, and in January 2010, he became the President of Leonie, where he has been providing leadership to the company in support of Counter-IED programs – a subject very close to our heart here at Defence IQ as some of you will of course know – as well as to foreign media and cultural advisory services throughout the world.

Today we’ll be talking about a topic that has proven to be a very difficult challenge for all Information Operations practitioners  -  that is, how can we measure the effectiveness of IO campaigns and other strategic communications efforts?

Q. So Mr. Negrelli, welcome to the session – how are you?
A. Fine, thank you Richard.  Thanks for having me.

Q.  You’re very welcome. Before we get into the heart of this topic, sir, I am sure you’ll be aware of the rather disparaging article that appeared on the front page of USA Today recently, an article in which the reporter, Tom Vanden Brook, questioned the effectiveness of Information Operations in Afghanistan, which your company of course supports.  In fact, there were subsequent postings by other media outlets suggesting that Leonie was actually behind what they called a dis-information campaign launched against those USA Today reporters.  Just to start off, if I could ask, very respectfully, would you care to comment on that?
A.  Yes Richard, I’m very aware of those postings, and let me first say that we have always been respectful of journalists and the media. Tom Vanden Brook reached out to Leonie in conjunction with his coverage, and we always were responsive and respectful in answering all of Tom’s questions truthfully and openly. Now in response to the story about the dis-information campaign, we launched an internal investigation.  There is no indication that any Leonie employee was involved in the negative postings about Tom Vanden Brook and his fellow reporters. Leonie does not condone that kind of activity at all. Unfortunately, this episode casts a negative light on the entire IO community.  But I’ll tell you, I am proud of the work that Leonie does on behalf of the US government, and I believe that we need to keep our focus on our work, including efforts to measure its effectiveness.

[Editor’s Note: For an update on this and other Leonie business you can go to our blog: www.leoniegroup.com/blog or by following us on Twitter and Facebook]

Q.  Ok, and I should also mention that the original USA Today article initially alleged that companies, like Leonie, stratcom companies, are allowed to measure the effects of the media products they produce, which essentially means that they grade their own work, measure their own success.  So, to out it to you, point blank, is that notion true?
A.  Not quite, Richard.  I think what the reporter meant to say was that Leonie is required by contract to measure the effectiveness of the media campaigns that our clients conduct in support of the Afghan people.  In fact, that is one of the main reasons that Leonie was selected to provide information operations support in Afghanistan

Now, Leonie is the only company I know that has a core staff of Strategic Communications experts AND a core staff of Operations Research Analysts.

“Operations Research” is a highly specialized discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.  It draws upon a rich tool set of measurement techniques and proven statistical methods --  and each of these methods is designed to measure performance and measure effectiveness of any process, or system, or operation, be it a military operation, or counter-insurgency, or counter-IED, or stability operations, or …  you name it.   Leonie’s approach is really based on the fusion of two critically relevant skill sets that’s -- Operations Research AND Information Operations.
Q.  Ok, OR and IO. Do you have any examples of how that translates in practical terms?
A.  Yes, but first let me go back a little to 2008.   Leonie was selected by JIEDDO to place Operations Research Analysts in a half-dozen US Brigade Combat Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was really a proof-of-concept experiment to see what would happen when this capability is put in close proximity to tactical problems.  

Operation Researchers not only know how to measure effects, but more importantly, they know what to measure.   So our Operations research Analysts, and they were working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Brigade Operations Officers and Intel Officers, were able to get the right data and deliver statistically valid correlations and insights to the commanders so that they could see which of the counter-IED tactics, techniques and procedures were working and which were not.  This got great reviews from the field Commanders, and Leonie was asked to embed an Operations Research Analyst in every brigade combat team and regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So we saw the value of putting this kind of resource in close proximity to the tactical problems.  The Operations Research Analysts provided Measure of Performance and Measure of Effectiveness data directly to the Field Commanders, enabling them to make informed decisions and adjust their operations based on quantifiable, statistically validated assessments. 

Now fast forward to 2011  --  and Leonie applied this same concept to our efforts in support of Information Operations and Strategic Communications.  In 2011, we embedded Operations Research Analysis into organizations that do the IO mission, and we turned them loose on the issue of “How do we know if the media campaigns are working or not?”

And sure enough  --  quantifiable, statistically validated performance indicators began to emerge.  And one of the most important developments that emerged from all this is something that we call Media Battlespace Awareness.

Q.  Ok I’ve obviously come across Media Battle Space Awareness as a platform thought some of our listeners may not have, but I am curious as to what actually goes into providing Media Battlespace Awareness to the command – and indeed how much demand and how much integration is there in this particular endeavor at this point in time?
A.  Richard, about a year ago I was attending a luncheon at Ft Myer Virginia, and the guest speaker was General Ray Odierno, who commanded Multi-National Forces – Iraq, and then he commanded Joint Forces Command, and he is now the US Army Chief of Staff.   One of the things that General Odierno said was that the US Military has finally begun to get its arms around all of the information and all the information operations within its span control.  But in regards tohow military information operations relates within the global media environment  -- the General said  -  we really haven’t got a clue.

So Richard – here we are in 2012; we know we must deal continuously with persistent media-enabled insurgencies, and we are just now coming to grips with the fact that the media environment is not just something our military commanders have to deal with, but it is a dominant force in the battlespace.

So our field commanders must be provided with much better situational awareness of the media environment, so that they can make informed decisions regarding all aspects of the battlespace within their area of operations.

So what we have done in support of IO in Afghanistan is to enable a more fully-integrated awareness of the regional media environment.  We’ve integrated the Media Battlespace right into the existing battle maps and operations systems in the command center.   Now this provides a startling visualization of all sorts of media data  --  it’s an operational visualization of target audience demographics; media placement coverage; assessment data from street-level atmospherics and polling results; and we have data on who controls the media outlets in that AO   --  all this media data is now made available to the field commanders and their staffs, fully integrated into their existing operations battle maps and planning systems.

This is what we call Media Battlespace Awareness.  It allows for incredible geospatial analytics which enables more complete effects assessments for the commander.

Commanders who have seen it are saying “Why haven’t we done this before?” and they are pushing for a more widespread use of this technique, not just throughout Afghanistan, but in the other geographical commands as well.

Q.   Ok, well I think it’s fair to say, that is a lot of data. My concern really is just how much information and how much awareness is generally provided, or indeed can be provided? And how are you able to really ensure the quality of the data coming through is to a high standard?
A.   That’s a good question Richard, because the problem isn’t the lack of data, but often times there’s just too much data.

Our team has gotten pretty good at analyzing the data to get an assessment on the reliability of the data sources.  They assess things like which sources are the most up to date, and most importantly, is how is the data relevant?
And what is interesting is that, as far as media data is concerned, a lot of it is already openly available and used routinely by commercial media outlets and media marketing agencies.   For example, to do dissemination or media placement, commercial media representatives in the region routinely provide data on things like area coverage, demographic reach, expected penetration, and how to validate the actual placement.  Now, these are things that commercial media representatives in all regions of the world normally provide to conduct business on a routine basis.

Now as for operational data, Media Battlespace Awareness uses existing data from existing databases. These databases that have on-going collection, quality control, and storage processes already in place. For example, information from databases such as CIDNE and SIGACTs is used for a myriad of operational visualization purposes.   This means there is no need for a proprietary data structure to support even the most sophisticated analysis products that we deliver.

Q.  Ok, well it sounds complex, there are of course a lot of acronyms in there and I won’t confess to understanding what they all are, but obviously the people that work and are involved in these programs, they will understand that, they will be, I presume, trained to a very high level, but perhaps you could shine a light somewhat on what their skill sets involve in particular and how the proven processes are used?
A.   Right  --  Media Battlespace Awareness requires a multidisciplinary approach.   At first we just simply embedded an Operations Research Analysts into the IO Team, and he worked with the Strategic Communications Planners and Assessment people.   But we soon saw the value of bringing in a social scientist, and adding cultural advisors and intel analysts into the mix. 

Now this mix of skill sets really enabled all the aspects of the Media Battlespace to be included in the assessment of media campaigns, with expert qualitative insights coming from the social and cultural experts, and quantitative expertise provided by the Operations Research Analyst.  This makes for a very robust media effects team that can be replicated in command centers throughout the theater of operations, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

Q.  Ok well that’s the human element of course; what about the technology? What tools are your people using to achieve what I would think would be effective battlespace awareness?
A.    I’m glad you brought that up Richard, because last year when we were in the initial stages of implementing this concept, we envisioned a new system that was in development at that time, and this system could integrate the databases and provide operational visualization, a kind of a Google Earth-like interface.  What we found out was that the entire Media Battlespace Awareness system could be implemented using existing system and software components, and it could come alive on platforms that were already in use by the command centers.  So there’s no need for new development.  The Media Battlespace Awareness is fully alive on technologies that the commanders and staffs use every day.

And this is what really accelerated things.  The data did not have to be re-formatted or ported over into third-party or  proprietary databases, and the operational visualization was done through tools that the military already had on board  -  tools such as ArcGIS and WebTas.   This was very important because these tools were already in place and were already accredited for use inside classified environments.

But to get the full details on this, you really need to go to the Information Operations Global conference next month in London.  We will have our Leonie team there, and we’re bringing in the key people who are actually providing this capability in Afghanistan, as we speak.   So we’re vey much looking forward to the conference  and sharing more details about Media Battlespace Awareness with all our colleagues there.

You guys have put together an outstanding agenda, and we are proud to be part of it.  I’m sure the conference will be thought provoking and enlightening for everyone who attends.

Well thank you. And if history is anything to go by, that’s certainly looking to be true. We will, Ed, in that case, wait until Day 1 of the conference to hear more details on those very same tools and techniques you have mentioned here today from your colleagues presenting at the event, but for now I’ll wish you our sincerest thanks for joining us today and agreeing to speak very frankly I’d say with us on these issues. It’s very much appreciated. Thank you.

Thank you Richard.

Thank you sir, take care.

Defence IQ, is a division of IQPC which hosts the annual “Information Operations Global,” conference. This year it will be on June 26-29, 2012 in London, UK. Follow this link for more information on the event.

About Leonie Industries

Leonie Industries is an international, professional services company that specializes in cultural advisory, strategic communication, and mission support services. Leonie helps clients overcome the social and cultural challenges of engaging publics in remote locations around the world.

Founded in 2001, Leonie Industries provides clients with a full suite of service including research and planning, polling and focus groups, media production and distribution, digital media and creative services and cultural advisory services.

Leonie Industries has global media alliances with more than 200 communication companies in 106 countries, giving them access to over 91,000 employees at more than 2,000 offices internationally.

For more information about Leonie Industries, visit www.leoniegroup.com