Playmaker Announces Strategy System 3, Previews AI Spin Decoder

June 5, 2018

Playmaker Announces Strategy System 3, Previews AI Spin Decoder

Update Streamlines, Simplifies the First Periodic Table of Influence

Paves the Way for Groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence Tool


BETHESDA, MD,  June 5, 2018 – When President Donald Trump calls mainstream reporters The Fake News Mediawhat strategies are behind his rhetoric? According to Playmaker Systems, a specialist in the decoding, mapping and simulation of influence campaigns, there are two: Label, which reduces what is complex to what is memorable, and Preempt, which flips the script on unwitting rivals. When Pope Francis exhorts his global flock to love and give more, his motive is more mutual, but his words betray a strategy too: Challenge, a cousin of the engaging Preempt, but more notable for its gentle, not mean, spirit.

These are foundation strategies observed in communications, finance, marketing, media, military and government intelligence, politics and sales. Classified and housed in what is often called the first periodic table of influence, they constitute a complete ontology of 23 discrete elements of the Taxonomy of Influence Strategies (shown right). Conceived and curated by Playmaker, and first introduced in the 2006 landmark book The Elements of Influenceby founder and chief executive Alan Kelly, the table reveals with unprecedented clarity the spectrum of precise strategies – both competitive and collaborative – that influencers employ to defend and bend their markets and the stakeholders that occupy them.

“Whether it’s a president manipulating media, a pontiff promoting faith, corporations pursuing a purpose, activists attacking excesses, or terrorists pushing propaganda, the strategies they employ to influence their markets are no longer terms of art and private dialects,” said Kelly. “Like chemicals in a periodic table, they are 23 fundamental plays used by politicos, CEOs, NGOs and insurgents to position, re-position and de-position agendas, collaborators and competitors.”


Building on this innovation, Playmaker today announced System 3, a streamlined and simplified update to its centerpiece taxonomy. Conducted over 14 months, the revision incorporates feedback from more than 100 executives, scholars, students and other experts, field experience with Fortune 100 technology, energy and pharmaceutical companies, lessons learned through the instruction of the Playmaker model at the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University, and insights gained in live weekly analyses of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential campaigns on POTUS, the nonpartisan SiriusXM radio channel.

A white paper details the findings and decisions that informed the System 3 review. Available online, it connects the general theory originally described in Kelly’s book and a 2012 revision that produced System 2, now retired.

Below are the principle changes and enhancements that distinguish System 3:

Contracting Table The Taxonomy of Influence Strategies, which shrinks from 24 to 23 discrete plays, improves in simplicity and precision while retaining its comprehensive makeup.

Classes and Subclasses Evolved  The taxonomy’s classes and subclasses are modified and, in the case of the subclasses, reduced by one. In the classes, Condition-Control-Confront succeed Assess-Condition-Engage while Probe-Frame-Divert-Freeze-Press-Provoke replace Test-Divert-Frame-Freeze-Press-Preempt-Provoke.

One Play Added  A new play, Reject, assigned to the Divert family of plays, describes shunning, snubbing and other forms of repudiation.

One Play Divided  Fiat, a pushing and pressing play in Systems 1 and 2, respectively, is divided into (1) Declare, which retains the Fiat’s iconography and core expressions of belief and intention, and (2) Inform, which animates statements of fact and information.

One Play Distilled  Concede assumes the strategies of contrition as originally embodied by the freezing play, Disco.

Six Plays Renamed  To reduce the system’s use of colloquial or faddish terms, six plays have been renamed: Trial Balloon to Test, Screen to Equate, Red Herring to Decoy, Mirror to Contrast, Lantern to Disclose, and Trump to Preempt.

Four Plays Removed and Transferred  With the introduction of more precise criteria, the incumbent plays Bear Hug, Crazy Ivan, Disco and Draft were removed from the System 2 taxonomy and held in reserve for the development of a contemplated higher-order system of plays, described next.

Superclass Envisioned A superclass of complex strategies emerges that may help identify and eventually organize myriad other plays observed in industry and society. Complementary to the Taxonomy of Influence Strategies, this framework can theoretically yield up to 253 so-called compound strategies, each comprised by pairs of discrete plays from the base taxonomy.


The completion of System 3 accelerates Playmaker’s quest for a foundation and standard in the management and analysis of influence. With advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and the precision that System 3 now offers, services and software can be developed that automatically decode, report and predict the plays of target actors.

One example is the Playmaker prototype, code-named ChopTalk™ beta, which can ingest among other content types the quarterly earnings statements of CEOs. With these inputs and a host of proprietary algorithms, ChopTalk is today producing the first-ever signatures of a given player’s investor communications strategy.

Shown in blue are the summed scores of eight machine-read influence plays that underlie 14 quarters of opening comments by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In orange is another first, a proprietary index, trademarked Spindex™, that provides a single-number score of the rhetorical density of a player’s narrative, Zuckerberg in this case. Set against Facebook’s stock chart, these readings provide clues to the strategy that the embattled social media behemoth has recently aimed at the investment community and the motives and intentions that are driving it.

“This is welcome news for the analysts of corporate spin,” said Kelly. “It holds the promise of a precise and stable tool to pinpoint, prescribe and predict the motives behind so many messages.”


For non-commercial parties, particularly in education and research, Playmaker offers free and open access to its published resources, including the Playmaker Influence System and its three supporting subsystems, the Table of Influence Strategies, Cycles of Influence and Factors of Influence. Their use is provided under the terms of the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, described in the Playmaker website’s terms of use, and is contingent upon the submission of a fair use application to Playmaker. Commercial rights and applications of Playmaker intellectual property by government and industry and other private parties are prohibited but can be obtained through a negotiated agreement.


Playmaker Systems, LLC, based in Bethesda, MD, is a strategy and analytics firm. We offer analysts, practitioners and students of influence the training, tools and techniques to decode, predict and control the plays and players of their markets – from friendly allies to covert competitors, CEOs to politicos, and activists to terrorists. Our touchstone, the Taxonomy of Influence Strategies, is like no other. First described by founder and chief executive Alan Kelly in his landmark book, The Elements of Influence, it is the centerpiece of a precise, patented and proven decision system that powers our standard-setting services and software. These include Playmaker Consultations, Playmaker Signatures and Maps, Playmaker Workshops, and Playmaker Simulations and Wargames, used by Fortune 500 companies Abbott, AbbVie, Bayer, Dell, GSK, HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Pandora Media, Royal Dutch Shell, SAP and VMware, and taught at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management and USC Annenberg School for Communication.


Download Announcement: Playmaker Launches Strategy System 3, Previews AI Spin Decoder

Online-Interactive: Taxonomy of Influence Strategies

Infographic: Taxonomy of Influence Strategies

Infographic: Playmaker Influence System

Infographic: Glossary of Influence Strategies

The Book: The Elements of Influence

White Paper: Playmaker System 3