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Two views of the Air Force:

Cognitive dissonance anyone?

One would thing so, but no. This is just another example of the struggle many organizations face — the push and pull between the IT overlords and the PR gurus for ownership of the online space.

Who will win? I’m afraid to ask…

Noah at Danger Room is smacking military PAOs around a little:

Forget the drone stuff. Here is your eye-popping statistic of the day: “This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department.”

That’s from an Associated Press investigation, “which found that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year.”

Staff costs take up most of the money, more than $2 billion. Another $1.6 billion goes into recruiting. About a half-billion goes towards “psychological operations, which targets foreign audiences.” And, finally, “$547 million goes into public affairs, which reaches American audiences.”

That last one may be the most amazing figure of ‘em all. Because getting a straightforward answer out of most military public affairs shops is still a root-canal-painful procedure. You’d think it’d be easier, with all those resources brought to bear.

Come on, Noah. You’re being a bit unfair. My response:

First, as already noted that the 27,000 includes recruiters — which mean staff in small towns peppered across the country. The actual communications apparatus is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller.

Even if you took the whole 27,000 though, which may seem like a lot, you need to consider that there are about 1 MILLION soldiers and nearly that many government civilians that are in or work for the Army. This means recruiting and communications make up a scant 1% of the organization.

And last, I understand the challenge getting answers from military PAOs. But you know as well as anyone that there are laws governing release of military information. Violating those laws can put Soldiers’ lives at risk — and, from their personal perspective, is punishable by fines and prison.

Given what is on the line with release of information, I don’t begrudge a PAO spending a little time fact checking, getting security review and legal take before putting information into the public domain.

No matter what you think, I’d definitely read the AP article that inspired Noah’s post.

Hotel Tango: Pew and PR Newser

… and enjoy the insanity that is about to descend on DC, I thought I’d share the top search term for people who got to my blog this week:

“Women in flight suits”

Who knew?

Happy innauguation weekend, everyone.

Apparently I offended the social media gods last night at Social Media Club DC when I made the audacious statement expressing my sincere hope that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the federal government didn’t start a blog to become more “Gov 2.0″

Some in attendance expressed disagreement. Others called me elitist.

For the record, I’m not elitist. I’m just smarter than everyone else. (Bad joke.)

But I do stand by my statement. And here is why.

Social media isn’t about technology; it is about using technology as a platform to change the way that people use media to interact with one another. Similarly, Gov 2.0 isn’t about technology; it is about sharing information and empowering the people to help government help them.

However, those uninitiated with social media, seeing the “trend” of participatory communication, all too often suffer from GMOOT — “Get Me One of Those.”

“I hear viral videos are big. Lets make one.”

“Blogging is the new pink. Build me one.”

“Everybody’s doing this Twitter thing. I want to too.”

Government takes time to change. A massive bureaucracy doesn’t shift overnight. My fear is that any mandate for government to adopt Web 2.0 communications efforts will turn into a series of GMOOTs. From every director of the division of the under-secretariat of the department of whatever.

And when that happens, and there is no PURPOSE behind the use of the technology, all you get is noise. Or, just as bad, a lot of blogs that are abandoned after a few weeks.

Participatory democracy isn’t easy. You’ve got to work for it. Reducing Gov 2.0 to “let’s build a blog!” is simplistic and naive.

I am all for government officials engaging in social media literacy. And yes, the best way to learn about the tools and the technology is to use them. But that doesn’t mean that the use should be devoid of purpose and strategy — especially if you are a government employee playing with these toys on the taxpayer’s dime.

So what is the solution? Resist the urge to create a blog just because you can. Consult with people who have experience with social media. Talk about organizational goals and objectives and then decide if/how/what kind of social media is right for your communications program. And, just as important, talk about how you will measure the Gov 2.0 program’s effectiveness and identify benchmarks for determining success.

And last, be leery of anyone whose knee-jerk reaction to implemting a social media program in government is “let’s do a blog!”

Are you in DC? Do you like gathering with other social media geeks? Does government new media interest you? Do you think Steve Field is just the cutest guy on the planet?

Then come to Social Media Club tonight at the Partnership for Public Service building in downtown Washington!

Mark Drapeau, Chris Dorobeck and I will be speaking on a panel, moderated by Booz Allen Hamilton’s social media evangelist Steve Radick. We’ll be talking about what we can expect in social media in government in the Obama administration, the opportunities and the pitfalls for government employees looking to integrate social media into their operations, things for government contractors to consider in social media, and much more.

Here are the details:

Date: January 14, 2009

Time: 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Location: Partnership for Public Service (http://www.ourpublicservice.org/OPS/)

1100 New York Ave, NW

Suite 1090 East

Washington, DC 20005

Building Entry: Let security know you are here for the SMC-DC event at the Partnership for Public Service. Security will give you access to the building’s lobby where there will be signs directing you to the East Elevators and up to Suite 1090 East.

Metro: Metro Center – take the 12th & G St. exit. Walk two blocks north.

Driving: Street parking and a public garage in the building with a nominal charge for parking. Garage elevators will empty into the lobby and you can follow the signs to Suite 1090 East.

I think it will be a pretty interesting conversation with these guys — they are all heavy hitters.

Better start cramming for tonight! Hope to see you there.

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