A Web site is a great way for you to get out your message on your terms.
But you should never create one just because you can. You need to have a reason to do so.
Today’s lesson in online communication for the military has been brought to you by the U.S. Army, which recently launched “Grow the Army.” It is a new micro site dedicated to sharing information about the growth of the military under orders of the President.
It basically consists of a map of the U.S. that you can click on and jump to another part of the page that talks about how much each base will grow as a result of the military reorganization. There are links to a press release (which nearly made me go cross-eyed from the big blocks of text), some slides (God, they are dreadful) and a video of the media briefing that announced the stationing (which I can’t link to because Army Media Player needs some serious work).
And all this gets a big “so what?” from me.
I’m sure some general in some corner of the Pentagon thinks that this is the most important thing to ever happen to the military, and it requires a big press conference and hundreds of cameras and a web site and fireworks. (And if it was you driving this, BG Cucolo, my apologies, but I still don’t think the roll-out of this plan requires a Web site.)
Before creating a micro site (or planning any
media event public event communication whatsoever), the first question to ask yourself is why.
Lets deconstruct this piece by piece.
Restationings and the growth of military installations are big news items. But only to the local communities. They bring good (new jobs, new construction, federal money, new consumers) and bad (more traffic, young-and-sometimes-foolish Soldiers). So would it make sense to have this site to communicate the Army’s message to these folks? No. The people outside Fort Lewis, Wash., or Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., aren’t going to the Army Web site to learn about restationing. They are going to the Web site of their local installation or, more likely, attending a public meeting at their local chamber of commerce. So talking to these people isn’t a reason to create this site.
What about the White House? The President directed the growth of the Army. Surely folks in the executive branch will want to see what the Army is doing as far as restationing. But wait! If I were President and wanted this information, I might call my Secretary of Defense, or my Secretary of the Army or even my Army Chief of Staff to get this information. I wouldn’t go to an Army Web site.
Maybe Congress wants to see this? Again, doubtful. With Congress, as with local communities, politics is local. When I worked at Fort Meade, we talked to former Sen. Sarbanes’ and Sen. Mikulski’s staff frequently, and we often were the ones providing them information about military realignment at the base.
So again, why? Unfortunately, sometimes in the puzzle palace, the answer is “because the general said so.” It is the job of thoughtful and strategic communicators in the public affairs ranks to make a case to those generals that “cause I said so” isn’t the best use of his or her communication resources.
What do you think of the micro site? Do you agree with me?
Read Full Post »