I did the unthinkable at a conference last year. While taking in the presentations on the first day of the Social Media and Cyber Influence Forum, I decided I needed to do a significant rework of the presentation I was scheduled to deliver the next day.

When I returned to my hotel room that night, I transposed a rough drawing I did in my notebook into a single slide that replaced five slides and a full narrative I’d practiced for weeks. I merged my ideas with three dominant themes that had emerged during that first day, mostly related to domestic and international terrorism, and the online proliferation of the propaganda of non-state actors:

  1. The public is moved to act more by emotion than fact
  2. The real battleground is social media where government and law enforcement generally struggle
  3. Social media is a garden overgrown with uniformed commentary

My session was titled Enigma, Purple, Social Media and its purpose was to decipher the complexities of communication, opinion and influence as it plays out online. I was tasked with helping the audience of academics, researchers, law enforcement and members of the intelligence community, understand the elements of online influence.

I opened my session with the rehearsed material I kept. The audience was very attentive. When I introduced my freshly created slide and associated ideas, everyone in the room leaned forward and opened their eyes wider.

I invoked my best inner Steve Jobs.

Yesterday we heard that social media present a new battleground. We also heard the terms “information warfare” and “social media warfare”. I believe what we’re really talking about is “emotional warfare.” Let me illustrate it this way. You’ve heard of the “ring of fire.” Well, today I’d like to introduce you to a new concept that speaks to the elements of online influence. I call it “Triangle of IRE.”


I explained the critical elements of making a connection with others over social media, and how the audience can better address external online forces. I included specific examples of then-recent events and how segments of the audience could have applied the Triangle of IRE to ensure they were part of the considered opinion, and to help them improve their relationships with the public.

All of my conversations for the rest of the day were about this one diagram and how to apply it. I understand some people have it pinned next to their computer monitors.

Wither content marketing. This year will be about emotion marketing and the Triangle of IRE.

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