ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 18, 2009

What can PR Learn from the Military about Social Media?


The session, “Social Media: Learn from the Armed Forces and Associations How to Leverage Technology to Meet Strategic Communication Goals during a Down-sized Economy,” went beyond social media 101 to give specific examples about how social media strategies were formed and executed. Before I begin to relay the brainy tidbits of this session, I must give a thumbs-up to PRSA for adding a military track to the conference this year. Not only is this area near and dear to my heart, but if the federal government and military can implement social media strategies in such a regulated environment, this should serve as inspiration for any organization, big or small, to get into the interactive space.

Larry Clavette, director of the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, shared the processes the Air Force has put into place to embrace the idea that every airman is a communicator. The Air Force is now accessible through a combination of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. To keep up with the level of activity on all of these social networks, the Air Force created the New Air Force Guide and Blog Assessment Chart. Take note of these documents for inspiration on how to socialize the enterprise.

Colonel Rudy Burwell, director of the Army Reserve Communications, began their foray into social media with a question: How can we better tell the story and put a face on the Army Reserves? Integrating social media elements into their traditional coverage gave reservists an outlet for their stories and a faces to the Army Reserve mission. Colonel Burwell shared this great advice on why social media has worked for them – What Works (10 +1):

  1. Real speech.
  2. First person.
  3. Make fan part of the story.
  4. Relevance trumps frequency.
  5. Great photo goes a long way.
  6. Raw, real and messy video.
  7. Don’t edit real life.
  8. Monitor and acknowledge.
  9. Robust rules of engagement on all platforms.
  10. Segment if necessary.
  11. If you are having fun, so will your fans.

What really came across in this session is the power of energy. Military is great for planning and processes, but to embrace and further social media, they had to engage fans on an individual level. Everyone has a story to share.

By Lauren Vargas is a community manager at Radian6, based in Boston, Mass. She is a well-known public relations blogger and speaker who specializes in integrating social media tools into communications/marketing and business strategy. Vargas is a multi-faceted communications professional with experience in internal and external corporate communications, governmental affairs and community relations. Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn and Twitter.

For coverage of the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, visit our Conference blog or follow the conversation on Twitter at hashtag #prsa09.

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