Part of the reason that new media seems to be stuck at the bottom of the communication totem pole at the Pentagon is because it is difficult to explain the value, the return on investment, that it has for communication.
There seems to be general universal agreement among Pentagon elites that main stream media is important. I can’t count the number of times while I was working there that the Chief of Public Affairs or the Director of Media Relations was taken to task by the the Third Deck for a negative story that appeared on NBC or in the LA Times. The consensus was that lots of people read/watch/hear this news, so it has value. The return on investing time in addressing the mass media is the volume of people it communicates to.
But things are changing.
Consider the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, released last month. (Disclosure: I work at Edelman, but was not involved with the development of this report.) Media is currently less trusted than business and government, and “a person like me” is considered to be one of the most influential sources of information. People care less about the news and more about what their neighbor or cousin or coworker thinks.
And the online world is allowing more and more people to bridge geography and time to interact with “people like them.” So the powerful online social tools — blogs, podcasts, forums, and the like — cannot be ignored.
The challenge is re-framing the way the Pentagon leadership looks at online media. These very real, very influential online conversations cannot play ugly stepsister to the mainstream media for much longer. If the military adheres to this old world view, it will do so at a great price.
We cannot just hope that military leadership sees this change. Responsible public affairs officers need to catalyze that change by proving the ROI from online communication.
There is a great post from the Daily Fix about proving ROI. It includes a great chart, which I have copied below:
Online communication has significant value. PAOs, it is your job to communicate that value.