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Archive for the ‘Web site’ Category

From the Associated Press:

 NATO plans to start an online TV channel to improve the image of the Western military alliance.

NATO TV will be launched at a summit next week in Bucharest, Romania, alliance spokesman James Appathurai said Wednesday.

Much of its coverage will focus on the mission of the alliance’s 47,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO plans to have five TV crews sending regular reports from the country.

The channel will be available on the alliance’s Web site, http://www.nato.int. Broadcast quality footage will also be available for TV networks to download.

Denmark is providing much of the funding for the project, which is part of an effort to boost flagging public support in several allied countries for the Afghanistan mission.

The better question is: will people watch it? And will the people who watch it be the audience that NATO is trying to reach. I’m not sure…

hotel/tango: Miranda

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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?

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DefendAmerica.mil, the one-stop shop for information about the Global War on Terror (or whatever OSD is calling it these days) is no more.

Supposedly, all of the content is being integrated into pentagon.mil. However, based on my last post, I doubt that is the case.

It’s election season. Time to hide Iraq under the carpet until there is a new president…

Anyone from OSD(PA) have something to share about the decision to take down the site? I’d love to hear.

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Where is Iraq?

Inspired by Scott Baradell‘s love of tag clouds by TagCrowd, I thought I would do an analysis of the Pentagon’s primary page, www.pentagon.mil.

Notice what is missing from the tag cloud created from the language on the home page today (December 4, 2007):

Yes to soldiers. No to airmen or sailors.

Big yes to Gates. Big no to servicemember.

Yes to Djibouti. No to IRAQ.

What you say on your Web site is important. But sometimes what is absent is just as telling.

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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 while ago, I was pointed to the new (unofficial) site created to promote the news and events of U.S. Pacific Command. It was created by enterprising folks from AFN Hawaii, probably because the command’s official position was to fear new media and not embrace it.

afn-hawaii.jpg

The site takes advantage of multi-media in an incredibly successful way — hosting text, photos and video in an easy to navigate format. Overall, the design is sleek and inviting, save the video archives, which could be presented better. (I don’t fault them too much though since this is an unofficial site that I am sure was created in spare time). The news content is even published in a blog format with links to related audio and video content, as well as a comments section.

If you haven’t yet, subscribe to the RSS feed here.

The Web site is a strong group effort, but I am pretty sure I can guess who was the brains behind this creation. Well done.

To the other DOD PAOs, take notice. These guys are kicking your butts. Unofficially.

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I have talked about the power of the Internet to help bridge the civil-military divide between those who live on Army bases and the non-military public.

The Army is about to create a “virtual Army installation,” which seems to be a start:

Laura Stultz may have never been in the military herself, but she’s had lots of experience holding down the home front, far from the nearest military installation, when her Soldier deploys.

Now, with her Soldier-husband serving as chief of the Army Reserve, Mrs. Stultz feels a personal responsibility to make things smoother for other Army Reserve spouses who keep the home fires burning during deployments.

One way she hopes to do that is through a concept she’s dubbed “the virtual installation.” The idea, Army Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz explained, is to make the information, services and support offered at big bases available to Families either through the Internet or through local Soldier support centers.

The general acknowledged that all spouses face hardships when their loved ones deploy – regardless of whether they’re active duty, National Guard or Reserve. But unlike active-duty Families who can turn to their local post for help if they need it, Army Reserve Families often live far from an Army post and don’t know how to tap into the services offered, Laura reminded her husband.

[…]

Lt. Gen. Stultz sees two ways the virtual installation concept might work. It could be Internet-based, enabling Army Reserve Families to use their computers to get the information, support and services they’d find at an Army post.

Another idea is to set up offices around the country, staffed by volunteers to assist military Families. Lt. Gen. Stultz said he envisions “Soldier support centers” around the country, possibly sharing space with the local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars or other organization.

In my humble opinion, the Internet option is much more practical.

Connecting reserve families online is a start. The next step is to connect the non-military public to the military.

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Today at 11 a.m. EDT, Deborah Scranton, director of The War Tapes will be hosting an internet chat about her award-winning film on WashingtonPost.com.

If I weren’t working, I would so be there. If any of you drop in, let me know how it is.

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Women in Combat Web site

Check out this great Web site on Defenselink, the DoD’s official Web site, honoring women in combat zones for their incredible service.

women-dod.JPG

While reading it, I thought in the very, very far distance, I heard Elaine Donnelly‘s head explode.

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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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