Saturday, May 16, 2009
Kudos to the 433rd Airlift Wing for their leadership role in using social media tools
So I am sitting at the San Antonio PodCamp when I hear MSgt. Collen McGee, the noncomissioned officer in charge of the 433rd Military Airlift Wing public affairs, speak on her unit's deployment of social media.
As someone who introduced the use of Internet tools in 1992 (back when Al Gore invented it), I saw the problem with embracing this tool, especially with the communication folks. One of the dumbest things that the Air Force did was turn over the Internet to communicators. I love communicators as a whole, and I know that at the Allied Forces Southern Europe public affairs office couldn't have gotten started with the Internet in 1994 without their help.
Yet, in the early days of the Internet, there wasn't a clear policy on who was in charge of the communication process. However, some communicators saw the problem with allowing public affairs types to operate without guidelines. I remember dealing with the communications types in 1996 to set up processes that allowed us to use the Internet as a communications tool. In 1994, it took some paperwork and a conversation with the Navy guys who ran communications for my NATO organization. Two years later, it took what I perceived "an act of Congress" to get access.
Now, with the advent of social media, it's obvious from Sergeant McGee's talk that the "comm guys" are still are in charge. So, mavericks like this sergeant are challenging the process to get an independent resource to communicate with their internal audiences as well as future recruits.
Hearing this talk makes me proud to have served in the Air Force. I am hoping that the senior public affairs professional leadership in the military can learn from people like Sergeant McGee.
The smart thing for government communicators is to get their commanders or senior executives to pay for the communications tools that operate independently of the main military grid. Doing so will allow communicators to manage their infrastructure and give the freedom to professionals like Sergeant McGee to do their job as well.