‘Perception Management’ is a term that originates with the US military. TheUS Department of Defense (DOD) gives this formal definition:
“Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreignaudiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well asto intelligence systems and leaders at all to influence official estimates, ultimatelyresulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’sobjectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection,operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.”
Although the above definition refers strictly to foreign audiences anddescribes perception management only in a military capacity, this is amisnomer, since it has long been recognized that domestic audiences are justas susceptible to being targeted by their own governments and otherorganizations for a wide variety of reasons. We can see this most clearly inadvertising, news, and entertainment, which are ideal platforms forimplementing perception management.A ‘Psychological Operations Specialist’ is an information and media specialistwho is specifically trained (usually by the military) to assess the informationneeds of a target audience and then develop and deliver the right message atthe right time and place to create an intended result. These specialists areprimarily responsible for the analysis, development and distribution of information that will be used for its psychological effect. They will have ateam of people working under them, and will sometimes be working incoordination with other Psyops Specialists running their own teams.In psyops programs, as opposed to more traditional military warfare, ‘softforce’ methods of covert influence are used rather than ‘hard force’ methodsof direct overt attacks. Therefore, psyops programs target a person, group,or population on a psychological level, rather than on a physical level. Thismeans that Psyops Specialists resort to various methods to manipulate atarget’s perceptions in such a way that the target’s opinions and beliefschange as a result. If the attackers can alter a target’s perception of supposed facts and information, they can shape or influence the beliefs andmotivations that result from those perceptions, and through that, they cancontrol the target.In military situations, Psyops Specialists engage in programs that areintended to affect the perceptions of a target audience, such as to demoralizean enemy by causing dissension and unrest among its ranks, while at thesame time convincing the enemy population to support the side attackingthem. Psyops Specialists are also responsible for providing continuousanalysis of the attitudes and behavior of enemy forces to tacticalcommanders in the field, so that they can develop, produce and employpropaganda in a successful manner. These tactics have proven so effectivewith foreign audiences that they are being employed more and morefrequently on home ground, to manage the perceptions of their own citizens.