The Narrative Campaign Field Guide
By Richard J. Cordes, Scott David, Ajit Maan, Alex Ruiz, Eric Sapp, Pat Scannell, and Sahil Shah
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With COVID-19 herd immunity moving from future concept to near-term necessity in many nations and the looming risk of a continued global trend of riots, extremism, and breakdowns in institutional trust, many organizations will be proposing and implementing initiatives to impact narratives and their resulting attitudes, behaviors, conclusions, and decisions. These initiatives, or “Narrative Campaigns”, offer opportunities to help rebuild trust, reduce polarization, and restrict the flow of misinformation—however, they also have the potential to be counterproductive if certain methods and practices are applied under the wrong conditions and the resulting negative impacts can be difficult to observe and remedy.
There is a meaningful interconnectedness between the issues these initiatives seek to address—for example, the negative impacts of counterproductive efforts to affect narratives related to COVID-19 vaccination will not be limited to vaccination or to the organizations responsible for the initiative. Furthermore, these Narrative Campaigns will not take place in a vacuum and will have to consider both state and non-state actors which intentionally or unintentionally disrupt the information environment, amplify or place misinformation, and run adversarial initiatives. This Field Guide is intended to help strategists design Narrative Campaigns, increase their efficacy, and reduce their cost, development time, and potential for blowback. To this end, the Guide also provides frameworks that increase observability of narrative and the campaign’s impacts, helping to avoid over-reliance on response data and data sources traditionally used in this space which may become increasingly illusory or difficult to attain.