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Two views of the Air Force:

Cognitive dissonance anyone?

One would thing so, but no. This is just another example of the struggle many organizations face — the push and pull between the IT overlords and the PR gurus for ownership of the online space.

Who will win? I’m afraid to ask…

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Apparently I offended the social media gods last night at Social Media Club DC when I made the audacious statement expressing my sincere hope that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the federal government didn’t start a blog to become more “Gov 2.0”

Some in attendance expressed disagreement. Others called me elitist.

For the record, I’m not elitist. I’m just smarter than everyone else. (Bad joke.)

But I do stand by my statement. And here is why.

Social media isn’t about technology; it is about using technology as a platform to change the way that people use media to interact with one another. Similarly, Gov 2.0 isn’t about technology; it is about sharing information and empowering the people to help government help them.

However, those uninitiated with social media, seeing the “trend” of participatory communication, all too often suffer from GMOOT — “Get Me One of Those.”

“I hear viral videos are big. Lets make one.”

“Blogging is the new pink. Build me one.”

“Everybody’s doing this Twitter thing. I want to too.”

Government takes time to change. A massive bureaucracy doesn’t shift overnight. My fear is that any mandate for government to adopt Web 2.0 communications efforts will turn into a series of GMOOTs. From every director of the division of the under-secretariat of the department of whatever.

And when that happens, and there is no PURPOSE behind the use of the technology, all you get is noise. Or, just as bad, a lot of blogs that are abandoned after a few weeks.

Participatory democracy isn’t easy. You’ve got to work for it. Reducing Gov 2.0 to “let’s build a blog!” is simplistic and naive.

I am all for government officials engaging in social media literacy. And yes, the best way to learn about the tools and the technology is to use them. But that doesn’t mean that the use should be devoid of purpose and strategy — especially if you are a government employee playing with these toys on the taxpayer’s dime.

So what is the solution? Resist the urge to create a blog just because you can. Consult with people who have experience with social media. Talk about organizational goals and objectives and then decide if/how/what kind of social media is right for your communications program. And, just as important, talk about how you will measure the Gov 2.0 program’s effectiveness and identify benchmarks for determining success.

And last, be leery of anyone whose knee-jerk reaction to implemting a social media program in government is “let’s do a blog!”

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Are you in DC? Do you like gathering with other social media geeks? Does government new media interest you? Do you think Steve Field is just the cutest guy on the planet?

Then come to Social Media Club tonight at the Partnership for Public Service building in downtown Washington!

Mark Drapeau, Chris Dorobeck and I will be speaking on a panel, moderated by Booz Allen Hamilton’s social media evangelist Steve Radick. We’ll be talking about what we can expect in social media in government in the Obama administration, the opportunities and the pitfalls for government employees looking to integrate social media into their operations, things for government contractors to consider in social media, and much more.

Here are the details:

Date: January 14, 2009

Time: 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Location: Partnership for Public Service (http://www.ourpublicservice.org/OPS/)

1100 New York Ave, NW

Suite 1090 East

Washington, DC 20005

Building Entry: Let security know you are here for the SMC-DC event at the Partnership for Public Service. Security will give you access to the building’s lobby where there will be signs directing you to the East Elevators and up to Suite 1090 East.

Metro: Metro Center – take the 12th & G St. exit. Walk two blocks north.

Driving: Street parking and a public garage in the building with a nominal charge for parking. Garage elevators will empty into the lobby and you can follow the signs to Suite 1090 East.

I think it will be a pretty interesting conversation with these guys — they are all heavy hitters.

Better start cramming for tonight! Hope to see you there.

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Happy Holidays

Now, through the New Year, it will be snowing in the D-Ring.

Thanks to WordPress for this fun, but not quite useful feature!

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So this isn’t about the military. And it is only tangentially about new media.

But I have always believed that choosing to write on a blog or another social media platform is NOT a license to write poorly. (Note: Edited to add a key missing word there. Thanks KJ!)

Enter Copyblogger, perhaps the best when it comes to advocating for strong online writing.

Brian Clark has a great new post. Even if you think that it is “inconceivable” that you use words incorrectly, you should check out the Inigo Montoya Guide to Commonly Misused Words.

(The reference comes from one of my favorite quotes from Mandy Patinkin’s character in The Princess Bride: “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

His tips are:

Adverse / Averse

Adverse means unfavorable. Averse means reluctant.


Afterwards is always wrong. It’s afterward.

Complement / Compliment

I see this one all the time. Complement is something that adds to or supplements something else. Compliment is something nice someone says about you.


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OSD(PA) holds all-service new media meeting. (Twitter)

Sec. Gates tells jokes… (Time.com)

…But isn’t joking about this. (Foreign Affairs)

Philippe Reines to advise Sec. Clinton, Doug Hattaway to brief the international press in Foggy Bottom? (USA Today)

Air Force on Twitter, selects really strange handle. (Twitter)

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With the announcement that Sec. Gates will be staying on at the Pentagon for at least a year during what is described as a “rolling transition,” my attention has turned to the new communications apparatus at the Pentagon.

As mentioned earlier this week, the Gates news is a near certain sign that spokesman Geoff Morrell will continue to serve as the voice of the Puzzle Palace in the short term. But if a Gates appointment is merely a bridge for Obama military adviser Richard Danzig to get up to speed as the next secretary, a new spokesperson will be needed in the near future.

Here is an initial take on the cast of candidates for the post-Morrell Pentagon flack job:

  • Stephanie Cutter: Currently the spokeswoman for the Obama transition, she was a senior spokesperson on the campaign. Cutter was a deputy communications director in the Clinton White House though, so she might have reservations about speaking for a cabinet member later in her career, even in a post as prestigious as the Pentagon.
  • Blake Zeff: Also from the Obama campaign, Zeff is an interesting choice who has been rumored for several White House communications positions as well. The twist with Zeff is that he is a former press secretary for Sen. Clinton. Does he have a place in a Clinton State Department? Foggy Bottom, or Arlington?
  • Linda Douglass: Former ABC News Washington correspondent (and former Morrell colleague), also served as an Obama Advisor. She has deep roots in the Washington establishment, which could bode well for her, but not much experience looking across the Potomac.
  • Tara Andringa: Spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Every Hill press secretary, whether they admit it or not, has aspirations to be the spokesperson for the White House. The only other two executive departments that Hill people aspire to are State and Defense, because those two are the only cabinet levels that do regular stand-up press briefings. She’d be an interesting pick; she has a bit of experience dealing with defense issues, although mostly on the minority staff.
  • Dave Helfert: Communications Director for Rep. Abercrombie (D-HI) and the House Armed Services Committee. Definitely not interested. He loves working on the Hill, and it is a great fit for him.
  • Price B. Floyd: Director of External Relations for Center for New American Security. Danzig is on the board of CNAS, and the relatively new progressive think thank has been referred to as the “farm team” for many national security positions in the Obama administration. Floyd has held several senior communications positions in the Albright State Department.
  • Shannon O’Reilly: Deputy Director of External Relations at CNAS. She is a bit junior, but has past experience working for CENTCOM. I don’t know her, but have heard she is smart and spunky. Might be a good fit for a less-senior communications role.
  • H. Andrew Schwartz: CSIS Vice President of External Relations. A well-rounded and interesting dark-horse option, Schwartz has experience working for Democrats on the Hill, producing for FOX News and writing for print media.
  • Kris Osborn: My dark-horse pick. Kris is a former CNN war correspondent and now writes for Defense News (with a strange stint on Entertainment Tonight in between). He writes mostly about ground combat, which is the centerpiece of current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, so ramp-up time for him on briefing the issues would be small. Plus, he has strong ties with the Pentagon press corps, career civil servants and industry partners. He follows the Geoff Morrell mold of pulling a spokesman from the press corps.

And why not throw my hat in the ring too?

Just kidding. I really like working at BAE Systems, and can’t imagine the Pentagon selecting a spokesman born in the 1980s (although the U.S. this year elected its first congressman born in my decade; he is only a few months older than me). But who I am to say no if asked to serve?

Any other thoughts? Who do you think would be a good fit for the Pentagon flack position?

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