Maximizing Social Media Strategies to Your Organization’s Benefit

This session was also a part of the PRSA Conference military track. Once again, I must give a thumbs-up to PRSA for adding these specialized sessions. 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.

Jack Holt, chief of Emerging Media at the Department of Defense, Defense Media Activity, challenged the audience to reframe their thinking and not be afraid of social media. Strategic communications has always been about planning and relationships. Social media is not any different. Holt painted the picture of social media strategy analogous to the process of making a movie. Before a movie is made, the studio wants a realistic picture of what the movie will produce in revenue and buzz. The effort is justified through backwards planning. This same planning and forethought should be applied to social media strategy and objectives.

Holt quoted the the Cherokee Proverb, “If you listen to the whispers, you won’t hear the screams,” and stressed that listening to your community is key. The Emerging Media Directorate knew loud and clear their messages were not being received. The challenge they faced was how to get published when the story didn’t rise to the level of news. Similar to what other presenters in the military sessions voiced, they decided to do something different and reach a worldwide audience with a neighborhood connection. The team untethered their information, gave snackable media to the people and began incorporating real faces and stories into their communications. Much of today’s Emerging Media coverage is “circular,” meaning it is distributed through many social media outposts.

Lt. Jennifer Cragg outlined examples of their social media communications including DoD Live, Bloggers Roundtable and the Armed with Science project. Check out this Pentagon Channel show, FNG, with a segment listing the Top 10 Stupid Things Done in Social Media. The entire audience got a chuckle out of this segment (begins 19:54)!

Keep a pulse on how the Emerging Media Directorate continues to address the Department of Defense’s need to communicate in an evolving global interactive space. All of us can learn a lesson or two from these social media pioneers.

(Cross-posted on the PRSA ComPRehension Blog. Thank you to PRSA for inviting me to the conference to blog.)

Building Relationships with the Digerati

This PRSA conference session was packed! With good reason. All of us have seen the countless examples of blogger relations gone bad. This panel wanted to set the record straight about how to build mutually beneficial relationships within social media.

The panel consisted of:

If you want to see the back channel chatter of this session, research #digit.

Key Take-Aways:

  1. Bloggers are talent, not journalists – But, that does not mean they should not get the same respect as journalists.
  2. Enjoyment, not product reviews, are drive for bloggers – Do not belittle their passion or opinions.
  3. Bloggers want PR people to know them before contacting them – This is good ole’ fashioned public relations requiring one to do their homework before making contact and be personal.
  4. Maximize opportunities and look across the spectrum – Do not focus all of your efforts on the most popular bloggers and bring those less well known into the fold.
  5. Feed their passion – Rather than automatically putting the hammer down on bloggers within your own organization, give them social media training, writing and coaching…even a Flip video 101 tutorial!

Remember, this is about human relationships. Just because the relationship is conducted online does not change the elements of interaction. If your first contact with a blogger is prickly, do not give up. Keep the dialog open. A blogger relations venture is akin to the dating process…you must be willing to do a bit of give and take.

(Cross-posted on the PRSA ComPRehension Blog. Thank you to PRSA for inviting me to the conference to blog.)

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 and the 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.

(Cross-posted on the PRSA ComPRehension Blog. Thank you to PRSA for inviting me to the conference to blog.)

Wounded Warrior Care: Practical Applications in Strategic Communications

After the war itself, we have no higher priority than caring properly for our wounded.” -Secretary Robert M. Gates

Last November, Secretary Gates designated the month as “Warrior Care Month” to communicate the Department of Defense’s commitment  to quality care to our Servicemembers and their families. In my former position as Community Relations Manager for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, we assisted in the communication of the program and messages through various media including social media channels. Now in a different position outside of government service, it was neat to revisit this campaign and learn from the source how the plan was executed and how the program continues to grow.

Robert Hastings, APR discussed the strategic principles used to develop this far reaching campaign.

  • Leadership-Driven
  • Credible
  • Understanding
  • Dialogue
  • Pervasive
  • Unity of Effort
  • Results-Based
  • Responsive
  • Continuous

It is important to note this campaign was developed with a centralized plan and thorough coordination with DoD and sister services, but implemented through decentralized execution. The services were empowered to carry the campaign messages and facilitate activities that would specifically cater to their internal communities. Maintenance of a decentralized execution required the use of a steering committee and shared master lists of initiatives. This campaign took hold and implemented quickly because it had Secretary Gates’ and other senior leaders’ support.

Secretary Gates advised the planning team to focus on the primary audience, tell the truth, admit mistakes and not to make promises they couldn’t deliver. This guidance built the credibility of the campaign. Other success factors included:

  • Engaged and Visible Leadership
  • Clear Strategic Objectives
  • Thorough planning
  • Unity of Effort
  • Coordination, Coordination, Coordination
  • Research and Measurement
  • Passion

Originally this campaign was called “Wounded Warrior Care,” but to address the lifelong trauma associated with war time injuries, the campaign was renamed to “Warrior Care” and is on its way to becoming an enduring program rather than a short lived campaign. For more information on Warrior Care and the media/activities being used to communicate the messages, please visit

(Cross-posted on the PRSA ComPRehension Blog. Thank you to PRSA for inviting me to the conference to blog.)

Crisis Communication: Your mindset rewired

This half day, pre-conference session by James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEP, proves you don’t have to have all the presentation bells and whistles to hold the attention of your audience! Through strategic conversation, supplemental handouts and breakout sessions discussing real crisis scenarios, The Strategic Advisor in Action During Crisis session challenges public relations practitioners to reevaluate how they interact with the media during a crisis situation and become better managers, leaders and people in these tough situations. Lukaszewski claimed he was not teaching public relations, but changing our mindset to view a crisis as an operator and management function. More than just a matter of semantics!

How many of us have been in a counseling position in a time of crisis only to have the chief executive bring in an outside consultant to say the exact same thing we have been communicating to management? Lukaszewski stated communicators are not problem solvers; communicators give options for management to choose solutions. The job of the public relations practitioner is to offer these business options in an intentionally different and helpful method to make constructive differences.

Stay in the game with these lessons learned:

  • The situation is not about you; it is about them.
  • Facts are debatable, but leaders live by stories and in times of crisis want to hear from more than one voice.
  • Always say things that matter.
  • You must have a personal communications philosophy.
  • All crisis are matters of trust.
  • Stop harping and do something management wants.
  • Stay in the game by offering three options to get job done.
  • Divorce yourself from your own advice.

It is important to note the session conversation was high level and focused on strategic mindset versus tactics. If offered in the future, I highly recommend this session to challenge your old thought and inspire new direction and guide posts for dealing with the media and your boss.

(Cross-posted on the PRSA ComPRehension Blog. Thank you to PRSA for inviting me to the conference to blog.)

Foundations of Growth Laid Prior to Conference Opening

There has been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere and this conference about the future health of the public relations industry and how the definition of our industry is evolving. I think the key to our future is in understanding what is being taught to the future generation of public relations practitioners. As an educator and a person extremely concerned about the health and growth of public relations, I was excited to attend the Educators Academy Research Session, Saturday evening, 7 November.

The overwhelming theme among the ten research paper presentations was the study of leadership in the public relations industry and discovering our industry is truly lacking great examples of leadership and must look to other industries for guidance. In addition to the paper presentations and roundtable discussion, 16 pedagogical poster presentations focused on putting theory into practice through service learning programs and student-run agencies. Attendees walked around the roundtable and poster presentations at their own pace, discussing best teaching practices, research and strategies with the panelists.

Unfortunately, while the session was open to everyone, the majority of attendees I met were other educators and not practicing practitioners. Yes, it great there is peer to peer networking and learning among the academics at this session, but practitioners could learn so much from academia research and vice versa. We should foster dialog between the academic and professional practice worlds. Such discussions might shed light and solutions on the identity crisis our industry faces today.

Visit the Educators Academy for more information on the proceedings of the session and conference.

(Cross-posted on the PRSA ComPRehension Blog. Thank you to PRSA for inviting me to the conference to blog.)