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Archive for the ‘DoD’ Category

So remember how I said that OSD needs to devote more resources to online communications?

An anonymous little birdie (thanks for the tip) informed me that OSD is staffing up its new media practice with new hires who specialize in online communications.

I found the job announcement here on USA Jobs for anyone who is interested.

I haven’t had much time to review it, but part of it troubles me. Organizationally, it appears that this new position falls under AFIS — the Armed Forces Information Service, which has historically been the internal communication arm of the Department of Defense. The internet got lumped in with them because public affairs didn’t know where else to put it.

In reality, the internet must be looked at as a virtual an interactive outreach tool, not simply an additional platform for posting command information stories.

Still, nice to see that new media is getting the resources it very much needs.

For those who were wondering, no I am not applying for the job. I am perfectly happy where I am right now. (Although it looks like this newly posted job pays very well.)

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From Argghhh, I came across an interesting post from Intel Dump about the civil-military divide and ROTC programs being key to bridging the gap between those who understand the military and those who aren’t a part of that world.

Read his post. It makes good points, but expanding ROTC in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City isn’t going to solve the problem — especially when college cliques would create microcosmic insular communities within the broader university structure.

The great thing about the Web is that it allows for outreach that extends beyond traditional physical barriers. I recently wrote about this concept.

As long as the military is clustered around a few military bases, connecting with the rest of America will continue to be a challenge. The DoD needs to devote more resources to online outreach.

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While writing about Neighborhood America, a company that creates online social networks for commercial, media and government clients, Mashable joked about the fact that the company listed the Department of Defense as one if its clients (MyNukes.com — a new social networking Web site.).

Naturally, I was intrigued and excited that DoD had turned to this company for online support. Was OSD Public Affairs about to launch a massive and innovative online community to connect the American people with the military in ways that previously weren’t possible?

I decided to investigate further.

When I dug deeper, I only found myself disappointed. It turns out that the work Neighborhood America had done was for DAPA — the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment. The work simply to create an online public commenting system about defense acquisition projects.

Yawn.

Perhaps this lack of vision isn’t only the fault of the Department of Defense. Consider the way that Neighborhood America bills its service on its Web site. For media, Neighborhood America “supports audience engagement.” For business, it “builds customer communities.” But for government? It “manages public comment.”

Government should be about more than managing comment. Consider all of the new two-way communication technologies that are available today online. If they are good for media and business, why not for government? Why is governing in this day and age of connectivity about “management” rather than conversation?

I’m not saying the DoD should create MyNukes.com. That was just parody. Still, there is room for a Department of Defense social network. Others have already shown the model can work, and I previously pointed out that in an age where too many people don’t understand the military because they aren’t touched by it, an online network could be the solution.

To OSD Public Affairs — your imagination is the limit.

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Online engagement and ROI

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.

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You might have heard about the junior Senator from Montana, John Tester, who has opened up his schedule to his constituents on his Web site.

Tester (who I was impressed with during the campaign and continues to impress) signed on to the Punch Clock Campaign, an effort of the Sunlight Network, to make the process of government more open and transparent.

The position of the Sunlight Network (rightly so) is that while openness has always been an imperative in a democracy, the Internet makes openness easier to achieve. They called on candidates to post their daily schedules online (at the end of the day, for security reasons) so that the public knew what their members of congress were doing, who they were meeting with, and who was influencing the political process.

The foundation also has an interesting blog.

While the Sunlight Network has focused on the legislative branch, I think this would be an interesting concept to apply to the senior leaders at the Department of Defense — to every day be able to see what the senior secretaries and service chiefs are doing, where they are devoting their resources, etc.

As long as standards were set to ensure that sensitive information was not published, this could be a major advancement in the open government movement.

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It seems as if the Department of Defense is focused on blogs as the biggest threat to OPSEC in the new media realm. It may be, however, that they overlooking another possibility — wikis.

From the Washington Post:

Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by non-technical people. We have received over 1.2 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources…

Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to a much more exacting scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency could provide. Wikileaks will provide a forum for the entire global community to examine any document for credibility, plausibility, veracity and falsifiability. They will be able to interpret documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran, the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context.

For those not familiar, wikis, such as the popular wikipedia, are information sharing sites that are completely maintained and updated by visitors — the community controls the wiki’s content.

Granted, wikileaks.org is designed to ferret out unethical behavior in government, but this exposes another problem — how difficult would it be to set up a wiki to lead information about DoD operations? Or other government secrets for that matter?

Something to keep an eye on…

(h/t e.politics)

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Information from the Department of Defense — including press releases, news stories and information from their signature America Supports You program — can now be accessed from Blackberrys and other mobile devices, according to a Pentagon release issued today.

From the release:

The new, mobile-device-friendly format can be accessed at http://www.dod.mil/mobile, officials affiliated with the project said.

“Having the ability to access the most current Defense Department information while you are on the go is especially important in the fast-paced communications world in which we live,” said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison.

Offering a mobile-device-friendly format to disseminate defense information “is another way we are trying to better serve our globally based audiences, providing them the most up-to-date news and information on the war on terror and other related activity,” Ms. Barber said.

The new format is specifically condensed to better fit onto the tiny viewing screens featured by most mobile devices, said Tom Dorsz, Web production supervisor at American Forces Information Service.

It continues:

Maximizing and integrating new technology is the mission of the new media team, said Roxie Merritt, director of DOD’s new media unit.

“On your mobile device Web browser, simply type in http://www.dod.mil/mobile to view the top news and press releases that are customized to fit your screen,” she said.

Customers will see much of the same information and many of the photos and graphics that appear on the regular Defenselink Web page, available at http://www.defenselink.mil said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, AFIS’s new media operations manager.

My first thought: This is great. It is good to see that the new media division has some news to announce.

My second thought: The new media division was created about four months ago… and THIS is the first piece of news that they have? That they have repackaged news so you can see them on mobile devices?

In all fairness, it is great to see that the DoD is integrating new technology into it’s communication tool kit.

But with all due respect, Ms. Barber, Mr. Dorsz, Ms. Merritt (three very capable and accomplished communicators), focusing only on the technology misses the point. New media — blogs, wikis, social networks and the like — are not about the technology. They are about changing the way that people interact with information.

Communication can no longer be about top-down methods and hierarchical structures. Your audience wants to interact with you, to play with the information, to be involved with their government.

Repackaging your news feeds to be read on a Blackberry is nice, but it is not the essence of what the new communication environment is about.

On a positive note: I now have some names attached to the new media shop at the Pentagon. If any of you are reading, I would love to hear from you (e-mail, comment, smoke signal, whatever) and talk about the DoD’s use of new media. Join the conversation. We’re waiting.

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