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Archive for November, 2007

Link Friday

Redstate flames Redacted. (You can view the trailer here.)

Towleroad talks about a more political version of “flags in.” (You can read about Arlington Cemetery’s tradition here.)

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Go Army! Beat Navy!

From Flickr, uploaded by Hoses.

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Come on, Bryan

So I thought Bryan from the Center for Security Policy had learned a bit about pitching bloggers since he last pitched the D-Ring (here and here).

Apparently I was wrong.

I just got another pitch from Bryan. And from it, I give you today’s lesson on blogger relations:if you have pitched a blogger before, and have had multiple back-and-forth exchanges with him or her via e-mail, do not re-introduce yourself and your organization in a subsequent pitch. At that point, the blogger should know you and who you represent.

That is the consequence of sending out form e-mails to bloggers. Without a personal touch, they undermine the relationships you have worked to establish.

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The Army is blogging!

Kinda.

The U.S. Army has a contestant in this year’s Miss America Pageant — Miss Utah, or Sgt. Jill Stevens. She is a veteran of Afghanistan and a member of the National Guard, and she is blogging about her experience in the competition.

They aren’t calling it a blog, probably as not to intimidate the higher ups who still don’t get the “interweb.” But that’s what it is. It is a series of personal entries, published in reverse chronological order, updated frequently.

Though others might disagree with me (so far she has written about singing holiday songs and practicing walking in heels and posing), I think that this is a great way to humanize the Army. Every Soldier story is different, and this certainly is a unique one. It may not sound like a traditionally “hooah” story, but this story has legs (really — no pun intended). Using a blog to help tell the story is quite effective.

Also check out the other multi-media incorporated into the site — a Flickr page, a YouTube page, a downloadable poster, a slide show

Overall, A+ to the Soldiers Media Center for putting together a great online package.

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Vote Vets and new media

If there were an award for the top military-themed online advocacy program of the year, it would need to go to Vote Vets.

VoteVets.org is an advocacy organization founded by OIF veteran Jon Soltz. It has a political advocacy arm that seeks to:

  • elect veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to public office — regardless of party;
  • oppose elected officials who have “failed the troops;”
  • provide legislative advocacy to benefit future service members;
  • ensure current troops are well-equipped and well-compensated; and
  • fight for benefits for veterans.

Of note, the group has been vocally against the execution of the Iraq war.

Whether you agree with their politics or not, visit VoteVets.org for a look at a strong, integrated, multi-channel online campaign. They have a great Web site that uses multi-media effectively. They have pages on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

And last week, they launched a blog. (A really good one, which, if they only offered an RSS feed, would be a daily read of mine.)

With online advocacy, as Vote Vets shows, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A blog is a tactic. Embedding video is a tactic. Participation in a social network is a tactic.

But together, they combine to create an echo chamber where the message is spread, shared and understood.

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A bunch of friends have forwarded me this article, or news like it (thanks all!). From the Washington Post:

The State Department, departing from traditional public diplomacy techniques, has what it calls a three-person, “digital outreach team” posting entries in Arabic on “influential” Arabic blogs to challenge misrepresentations of the United States and promote moderate views among Islamic youths in the hopes of steering them from terrorism.

The department’s bloggers “speak the language and idiom of the region, know the culture reference points and are often able to converse informally and frankly, rather than adopt the usually more formal persona of a U.S. government spokesperson,” Duncan MacInnes, of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism and unconventional threats on Thursday.

“Because blogging tends to be a very informal, chatty way of working,” MacInnes said, “it is actually very dangerous to blog.” So State has a senior experienced officer, who served in Iraq, acting as supervisor and discussing each posting before it goes up. “We do not make policy,” MacInnes added.

The State Department team’s approach is to join a blog’s conversation, often when it turns to the motivation for U.S. policy toward Iraq, and when others are claiming that the U.S. occupation is meant to help Israel or to secure oil. “Our job is to address that motivation issue and show them that that’s not the motivation,” MacInnes said.

It’s dangerous to blog??? I understand his point, but come on.

How about the State Department, rather than censoring and reviewing every blog post for consistency with department policies and goals, institute one simple blogging rule: blog at your pay grade.

Simply put, if you blog about what you know about and discuss matters related to your job at the level of your responsibility, while adhering to principles of informational security, there is no reason that blogging should be considered “dangerous.”

Perhaps it is people like MacInnes whose gloom-and-doom views of blogging are keeping it from taking stronger roots in the federal government.

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Text messaging is the new frontier for communications.

Mobile phones are ubiquitous in the US. Tens of billions of text messages are sent and received every year.

Yet marketers are still experimenting with the best ways to tap into this phenomenal communications resource.

The DOD however, has come up with an interesting approach that I think is quite effective — they have incorporated text messaging into the America Supports You “Giving Thanks Campaign.”

This holiday season, America Supports You is giving you a new way to send your thanks to the troops – by text message! When you send your message of thanks to 89279 (TXASY) between November 17th and 22nd, you’ll receive a special thanks in return.

The really interesting part is the feedback loop they created — go to their web site and you can get the code for an embeddable widget for your blog or Web site that will display the text messages sent to troops. So not only can you participate and show your thanks, you can also show everyone else that people are supporting the troops.

Overall, this is a great way to use technology to engage with people, leverage the benefits of SMS and connect those messages of support to others online. I’d encourage you all to check it out and send a text message.

I am.

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Redacted

Do you want to hear a war story? 

Looks pretty intense.

Interesting tidbit: This movie is premiering tonight on HDNet Movies. It hits theaters on Friday.

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Becoming a micro-niche

Or, in other words, how do you carve out your space in the blogosphere?

I had an interesting back-and-forth with prolific PR blogger Todd Defren of SHiFT Communications about the role of leadership in the blogosphere.

While he noted several A-listers such as Scoble, Rubel and Weiner, I pointed out that in the blogosphere is not a monolithic entity, and there are several niches and micro-niches that have their own leaders.

The trick with blogging is carving out your niche and owning that space. Demonstrate your leadership with your specific area of expertise.

Take my blog for example. Does the D-Ring have massive readership? Of course not. Blogs with much broader appeal, such as Danger Room and BlackFive are much more highly trafficked. The defense communications industry is a niche within a niche; it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

But I do try to make the D-Ring a first stop for people who are interested in military public relations.

Your niche within a niche doesn’t have to be large. Take, for example, the new blog by Mark Goode of CommerceBasix, a small defense contractor focused on acquisition reform. A tiny community. But his blog is well written, he does a great job of participating in the blogosphere (he tipped me off to his blog with a very well crafted e-mail introduction/pitch), and he showcases his company’s expertise.

Mark is working on owning the defense acquisition space in the milblogosphere. And I bet that he and his company will succeed.

So ask yourself — what is your niche in your niche of the blogosphere?

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One Year in the D-Ring

Wow. A year went by so fast.

I’ve been blogging for longer than a year (you can see my first attempt at blogging — but be prepared to laugh at me), but as of today, The D-Ring is one year old.

Who knew I’d still be blogging here after a year. Or that I’d have as many readers as I do. For a long time, I thought only my mom would want to read this stuff. She does read The D-Ring, by the way. Hi, mom.

A lot has changed in a year. I left the Pentagon for a new job (and have since gotten a new title). I’ve left apartment living in the Virginia suburbs and moved into a condo in the heart of Washington, DC. I’ve met some really interesting people, both online and in person.

Some of the highlights:

  • Defending the misinterpreted “blog crackdown” by the AWRAC
  • Getting to see USAA donate $8,000 to Project Valour-IT at the Milblog Conference in May (disclosure: USAA is an Edelman client and I worked with them)
  • Criticizing the Pentagon for blocking MySpace, YouTube and other social media sites
  • The Beauchamp Affair
  • Learning about the exploits of Chris and Chris on their deployment adventures (both of whom I am a big fan, even if they are Zoomies)
  • And much more

So thanks to you all. Milbloggers. PR Bloggers. Friends and Family. I have you all to thank for the D-Ring. Here’s to the next 365 days in The D-Ring.

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