Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
September 29, 2009

Social Media and the Military: It’s Time!

U.S. military public affairs officers around the world are anxiously waiting to see the Defense Department’s new social media policy. Defense Department officials plan to announce a “balanced social media policy” in the coming weeks … and we can’t wait to see the final copy.

Practitioners like me hope the new policy will allow airmen, soldiers and sailors social media access within reason, while providing structure and guidance. Social media tools offer tremendous opportunities for recruiting, building coalitions and educating global audiences. Isn’t it ironic … the most technologically-advanced air force in the world doesn’t allow its public affairs officers to “tweet” or recruit on official Air Force networks? Many savvy practitioners have already developed “work-arounds” using broadband wireless air cards and other devices to reach virtual communities, costing the Defense Department pennies compared to traditional media tactics.

But public affairs officers (PAOs) are not alone. Like thousands of public relations practitioners in corporate settings, the military is struggling to balance sensitive topics and security with opportunities to reach new virtual communities.

Join the social media discussion November 9 at the PRSA 2009 International Conference workshop “Social Media: Learn From the Armed Forces and Associations How to Leverage Technology to Meet Strategic Communication Goals During a Down-sized Economy.” By that time, we will have the Defense Department’s new social media policy in hand — and hopefully there will be much to “tweet” about.

Ann Peru Knabe, ABD, APRAnn Peru Knabe, ABD, APR, is a full-time instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  Knabe is a public affairs officer in the Air Force Reserve. Prior to UW – Whitewater, Knabe taught public relations at UW-Milwaukee and Introduction to Reserve Public Affairs at the Department of Defense Information School (DINFOS). She has also presented at crisis communication and training courses for PRSA and various military groups. Knabe is also a graduate of the DINFOS Public Affairs program. Currently, Knabe serves on the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), and is the international delegate for the PRSA assembly. She is also the US Delegate for NATO’s Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) Public Affairs Committee, and is working on an interdisciplinary Ph.D. at Marquette University, specializing in public relations, distance education and psychology.

This year PRSA has lined up an exciting group of established military professionals, including Robert Hastings, APR, former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs; T.L. McCreary, rear admiral, U.S. Navy, retired, and president,; and Hal Pittman, rear admiral, U.S. Navy, director of communication, U.S. Central Command, to speak at the PRSA 2009 International Conference on unique military communications issues such as crisis communications, social media strategies and communications leadership. PRSA is offering a special discounted registration rate to U.S. military personnel who are currently serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and activated/drilling members of the National Guard and Reserve, Package 3 Military Personnel Registration. The deadline for the Saver Rate pricing for this package has been extended to October 16.

Join Ann for her Conference session, along with Al Krueger, Larry Clavette and Colonel Lora Tucker, on November 9 at the PRSA 2009 International Conference workshop Social Media: Learn From the Armed Forces and Associations How to Leverage Technology to Meet Strategic Communication Goals During a Down-sized Economy, at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value,” November 7–10 in San Diego, CA!

  • Michele Papakie

    Great article, and so timely! I was activated to support the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last week, where I represented the public affairs function in the Joint Operations Center. We had a social media incident that sparked a lot of interest and great discussion. I submitted a “lesson learned” to say that we needed a computer in the JOC with the capability to access social media sites. I’d love to talk to you about this! I’m planning to attend the PRSA conference in San Diego. Can we get together there? I am a “DINFOS-trained-killer,” too, and served as the PAO for the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard for 15 years. I am now the EO at my unit. Fulltime, I teach journalism and PR at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.