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Archive for April, 2007

From BBC News:

A programme to kick-start the use of internet communications in space has been announced by the US government.

The Department of Defense’s Iris project will put an internet router in space by the start of 2009.

It will allow voice, video and data communications for US troops using standards developed for the internet.

Eventually Iris could extend the net into space, allowing data to flow directly between satellites, rather than sending it via ground stations.

“Iris is to the future of satellite-based communications what Arpanet was to the creation of the internet in the 1960s,” said Don Brown, of Intelsat General, one of the companies who will build the platform.

Arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the predecessor of the internet, was developed by the United States Department of Defense.

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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.

Wow.

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?

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D-Ring 2.0

A while ago, a friend pointed me to the Web 2.0 logo creator.

And I thought to myself, why doesn’t the D-Ring have an official Web 2.0 logo?

So I decided to create one.

For my first attempt, I got this:

But it felt too boring. Besides everyone knows that Web 2.0 companies don’t have hypens. How about…

Better. But still kinda boring. I know! Add a shadow, and a superfluous “r” at the end!

And a beta. Can’t forget the beta.

I feel so Web 2.0 now.

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http://blogs.defendamerica.mil

Or, a (very short) treatise on letting milbloggers blog and leveraging their power.

The Pentagon is afraid.

There is something revolutionary happening with media. People have been talking about it for a few years, but in the last 24 months, we have seen a tidal-wave like shift. Media once used to be owned by the elite; online publishing has now democratized media. Institutions (like the media) are facing growing distrust, while the voices of average people (ones that we can relate to) are becoming more and more credible.

Study after study shows that the military’s most effective spokesman is often the soldier him or herself.

Yet despite the amount of trust the organization puts in junior enlisted and noncommissioned officers, there is no trust in the ability of these men and women to tell their story to the world. Generals and admirals seem to be afraid that, if left on their own, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines would ruin the “brand” that they have tried to create, that they would sully the image of the service.

But this is not the case.

The leadership also seeks control. To own the message. To own the image. To own the communication.

They are commanders. What they know is control.

But what the medium knows — what this new communication environment knows — is fluidity. It is openness. And more importantly, whether commanders like it or not, soldiers will blog.

Rather than fight it, the smart commander should embrace it.

I have written before about the gap between the military and civilian society. This is a problem, especially as we face a long and protracted war against a determined enemy in a war that requires continued public support. Imagine if every soldier was not just a rifleman, but also a spokesman? If online, there existed a portal that served as a repository for the stories of hundreds of thousands of men and women serving who codified their stories into blogs?

The Pentagon should create a forum where every Soldier can tell his story — a platform at http://blogs.defendamerica.mil.

Any service member who wanted to could register a blog at this address for free. All that would be required to register is to take a quick 15-minute online tutorial (created cooperatively by public affairs and operational security experts) on what information is and isn’t appropriate for posting on their blog and how to blog.

With that, they would be free. They could tell their story. The blogs would be aggregated online for anyone who wanted to come and see the military story — direct from the mouths of the brave men and women serving the nation.

A pipe dream? Perhaps. But something to consider.

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Weird

So today, someone, through search found The D-Ring searching the phrase “why is milblogging bad?”

Ouch.

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Picking on PAOs

Lately, it has felt like everyone has been picking on public affairs officers. At least in the milblogosphere.

Apparently, PAOs bear the sole responsibility for the fact that the military is losing the battle for America’s hearts and minds.

A few things to consider:

1. Public affairs officers may be professional communicators, but they don’t own the media. The media is independent, and decide what they will write on their own.

2) Public affairs officers may know how to position a message, but in the famous words of Ms. Torrie Clarke, former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, you can’t put lipstick on a pig. (Or in the words of Ms. Stephanie Hoehne, principal deputy to the Chief of Army Public Affairs, you just can’t buff a turd.) Sometimes, bad news is just bad news.

3) Public affairs officers are only as good as their leadership. The PAO serves the commander. Bottom line. And if their commander is stifling their creativity and their ability to get the message out, then passing the blame to the PAO is simply unfair.

4) For that matter, public affairs officers seem to be institutionally devalued, which undermines their contribution to the fight. When I was at Fort Lewis, the I Corps commander (a three star general) had 0-6 colonels as his lawyer, chief of staff and chaplain. All of the brigade commanders were obviously full-birds. But his PAO? A lieutenant colonel.

I’m not suggesting that everyone in the public affairs community is at the top of their game. Or that even everyone is decent. But I do think that the PAOs have been getting a bad rap lately. And it pisses me off. Because overall, these guys are working their asses off to help support the fight.

Its easier to pass the buck. But true leadership requires looking in the mirror and saying “I’m going to fix this.”

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They are everywhere

I came across another PAO milblog… And this one is a great one. Not just in terms of quality of writing, but also design.

This week, I introduced you to Chris Eder, an Air Force broadcaster who blogs here.

Today, meet another Chris who is an Air Force broadcaster — Chris Vadnais. Not only is his blog well written, but it’s got a smooth design. And bonus points to him for being a Mac lover (yes, I have a PC, but lets face it… Macs are better).

Anyhow, if you haven’t yet checked it out, Chris’ blog, Jack Snupple, is worth a read. Both these guys are new additions to my blog roll.

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