In a comment on my blog, Chris Vadnais wrote:
“Your audience shouldn’t be your fellow service members; it should be me.”
I disagree with you on this, as I think the commanders on the ground would.
Military broadcasters–on whom much of the responsibility for creating these new media products is going to fall–are expected to disseminate command messages to the troops in country. That’s what we’re trained to do. That’s why we run FM radio stations and produce local news shows. If our products happen to have broader appeal, or we can tool them that way without taking anything from the primary audience, that’s a bonus.
Public Outreach is not really in our vocabulary, and I don’t think it should be. Let the External PA people handle that. If they want to use our products, fantastic, but I don’t think we should be generating products for the sole purpose of convincing you or anyone else in America that the US military is doing good things.
As you know, MPADs work for a PAO, who tells the journalists what stories the commander wants covered, and who in many places ensures their products get on the local intranet or play in the FOB movie theater regularly.
In my opinion, GOOD commanders will task their PAO with finding stories that meet target objectives. For example:
Teach my Soldiers the dangers of “huffing,” prepare my Soldiers for the news of our tour extension, and get my Soldiers to call their spouses at least once a week.
That kind of stuff.
Still just my opinion: a GOOD commander isn’t going to be thinking about using his or her resources on the ground to convey messages to anyone except the rest of his or her people on the ground.
Big Army can handle the Outreach.
This is a great point about what is. However, it is not at all aligned with where the military should be in an age of digital communication.
The Deputy Chief of Army Public Affairs is a reserve general — Brig. Gen. Mari Kaye Eder. She is quite an impressive GO and has incredible public affairs insight. One of the things I remember her saying when I worked at OCPA is that the public affairs career field demands that everyone become a public affairs pentathlete.
I don’t remember exactly what the five competencies were, but the crux of her argument was that stovepipes don’t work. We can’t have only command information officers and only media guys and only outreach/community specialists.
Because lets face it. Today’s media environment encourages dispersion of message. A “command message” in the post newspaper could be left behind in a barber shop off post. A Soldier blogger may comment on something his 1SG said about readiness on his blog. Information is fluid, and good communicators must think how their messages ripple throughout (or how traditional communications can be re-purposed for further and/or alternate use).
Even the institutional Army is dispersing messages designed to educate the troops. Around the Services, Army Today, and other programs are fed across the country on the Pentagon Channel and on military Web sites.
Chris, I hate to pick on you, cause I think you are awesome. But a pentathlete you are not. You need to get out of the stovepipes and think about the big picture of military communications. Its not just about communicating to the troops (which is VERY important) but about communicating with the world.
Who’s up for the challenge?