Archive for the 'social media' Tag

As our platforms and missions become more complex, our need for talented people continues to be a challenge. We need to recruit, train and retain the right people…”

Admiral John Richardson, U.S. Navy
Chief of Naval Operations

In 2017, nearly 2,000,000 young men and women will graduate from colleges and universities throughout America. We want 200 of the very best to commission through Officer Candidate School (OCS) and serve America as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer (SWO).

To be sure, we have historically attracted and retained great people in Surface Warfare. With an eye toward our return to Sea Control and distributed, more lethal warships, we should ask ourselves a series of critical questions, “Can we do better?”… and… “Are we tapping into the full potential of America’s shining youth?” Former Joint Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, referred to the “sea of goodwill” that has given rise to a tide of support for our military since the attacks of 9/11. Is that goodwill sustainable?

Talented young men and women matriculating from our nation’s colleges and universities have life options. Surface Warfare could be one of those options, but it is not enough to sit back and wait for talent to come to us. In the competitive market of America, we must reach out, connect with, inform and attract the most talented into our community – and our Navy – in order to position our warships to fight and win when the nation calls.

There are extraordinary young men and women throughout this nation who would thrive as Surface Warfare Officers, but literally have no idea that the amazing opportunity to serve on warships… leading at sea… undertaking impactful work for our country… is even a remote possibility in their lives.

We are positioned to turn a life opportunity into reality for our nation’s best. Here is how we are doing it.

We know who we want

Through a series of surveys and data collection efforts, we have mapped attributes and characteristics of successful young SWOs.

These include: previous proven leadership experience – of any sort, at any level – in a varsity sport, club or organization; demonstrated initiative; oral and written communication skills; positive contribution to organizational efforts as part of a “team” – assessed through previous participation in organizations, clubs and sports; work experience that illustrates a sense of discipline and accountability; time management and organizational skills that reflect an ability to follow established procedure and demonstrate attention to detail; enthusiasm and passion for the nation and the Navy that would prompt internal motivation in the face of adversity; and, a desire to work hard, remain committed to mission accomplishment with a strong desire for service with impact.

In March, we worked with Navy Recruiting Command and we generated guidance to the entire officer recruiting force in the country, reflecting these attributes and characteristics.

Leveraging our competitive advantage

Junior Officers have told us that the principal attractors to Surface Warfare are: 1) the opportunity for immediate leadership; 2) the opportunity for adventure and travel; 3) the opportunity for a flexible, option-based career; and, 4) the opportunity for postgraduate level education.

In business terms, Surface Warfare has a near-monopoly on these attractors. Can we better leverage that competitive advantage in a more meaningful and vibrant way?

Outreach and the Power of Social Media

In Fiscal Year 2016, 18 young men and women applied to be SWOs through Officer Candidate School from the states of North and South Carolina –combined. We met our “numbers” and we got great people. But there are more than 125 colleges and universities in these two states. Do graduates from these schools – and thousands like them around the country – even know that Navy Surface Warfare is a life option for them and, consequently, are we missing out on large segments of the population who could serve and propel us to even greater heights as a Navy?

Through the power of social media, we can – at a minimum – begin to raise nation-wide awareness of the opportunities in Surface Warfare. This is not about numbers. This is about reaching out and connecting with talented young men and women to ensure they are aware of the opportunities to serve in our community today, ultimately leading our Navy and serving as the sea captains of tomorrow.

Bringing it together

We know who we want, we know what attracts men and women to serve in Surface Warfare and we have the ability to connect with America at our fingertips. Can we take these pieces and integrate them in a meaningful way? Conceptually, we want to move toward “getting who we want” to serve as Surface Warfare Officers – quality men and women, with characteristics that set themselves up for success as a SWO and who are drawn to our community. Along the way, we should connect with America’s exceptional youth from backgrounds and demographics that are under-represented in today’s force.

This is possible today. So we are seizing an opportunity – and moving out quickly!

In a collaborative effort with Navy Recruiting Command, we launched our community’s first-ever targeted outreach into America using the power of social media. Through a newly formed teaming effort with LinkedIn – the largest connector on the planet – we now have the ability to “meet people where they are,” connecting directly with people all over the country using high end talent matching and recruiting functionalities imbedded in LinkedIn.

We also have the ability to provide interested candidates with access to our #1 asset – our people. Today, a cadre of more than 50 junior officers in the current force who have “walked a mile in the shoes of a SWO candidate” are aggregated in an on-line platform. Have a question about serving in the Navy? How to apply for a commission? What does a Surface Warfare Officer do? Those answers are a keystroke away on social media.

The overall concept is simple. Connect directly with the people we want to serve in our ranks, invite their attention to the opportunities of future service as a SWO and provide on-line access to the exceptional men and women we have in today’s fleet. Then, turn interested candidates over to the exceptional professionals in our Navy Recruiting Districts all over the country to support application for Officer Candidate School.

Earlier this month, we conducted our first significant outreach — a direct communication to 150 students possessing the background, attributes and characteristics we want in future SWOs. These students are enrolled in universities and colleges in North and South Carolina – among them: Duke, Wake Forest, the Universities of North and South Carolina, Clemson, Appalachian State, Elon, Davidson, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) like North Carolina A&T and Benedict College.

In a great example of the power of high velocity learning, we have already captured key lessons and applied them – enabling outreach to specific people in even larger audiences on-line.

More broadly, perhaps we open new doors and find opportunities by using a similar approach in critical areas for national security like cyber.

We are also thinking differently about how to more vibrantly leverage social media and networks of influencers to connect with young men and women seeking a commission through the U.S. Naval Academy and Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC).

From 2,000,000 young men and women, we want the best 200 to serve America as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer – executing military diplomacy, sea control and power projection.

Let’s go get ‘em!

Social-Media-Marketing-StrategyNot since having to give training in the early 1990s to people about the proper protocol involved with “Reply” vs “Reply All,” “cc” vs “bcc,” or explaining to a Chief of Staff that email do not have Date Time Groups, have I been more perplexed by a DoD movement involving internet based communications than what came out at the end of June. This time it is Social Media and politics.

Open up the 29JUN2016 MEMORANDUM from OSD at this link (do I need to explain that you should ‘right-click’ and then select ‘open in new tab’ – I’m not sure if I do anymore) and take some time to read it over. If you’re in a hurry, then trust me on the pull quotes below – you’ll get the point.

Let’s back up a bit. Since I was a wee-pup, we all knew the Hatch Act restrictions well. Nice, comfortable, and a warm fuzzy blanket ease to it:

DoD personnel are prohibited from engaging with potential candidates and their authorized representatives on any matter related to their official duties under any circumstances.

All DoD personnel should also be aware of existing limitations on participation in partisan political activity, which is regulated by the Hatch Act and implementing regulations and departmental policies for DoD civilian employees and by DoD Directive 1344.10 for military members.

Military Members

The primary guidance concerning political activity for military members is found in DoD Directive 1344.10 [Guidance for Military Personnel]. Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering. Active duty members may, however, express their personal opinions on political candidates and issues, make monetary contributions to a political campaign or organization, and attend political events as a spectator when not in uniform.

In general, all federal employees may use social media and email and comply with the Hatch Act if they remember the following guidelines:

(1) Do not engage in political activity while on duty or in the workplace.
• Federal employees are “on duty” when they are in a pay status, other than paid leave, or are representing the government in an official capacity.
• Federal employees are considered “on duty” during telecommuting hours.
(2) Do not engage in political activity in an official capacity at any time.
(3) Do not solicit or receive political contributions at any time.

“Political activity” refers to any activity directed at the success or failure of a political party or partisan political group (collectively referred to as “partisan groups”), or candidate in a partisan race.

No one of substance has ever thought this unfair or hard to understand. Solid stuff.

Welp … looks like someone just discovered social media and didn’t sit through the full brief:

…active duty military members and further restricted civilian employees are prohibited from participating in partisan political activity. Therefore, while these employees may “follow” “friend” or “like” a political party or candidate running for partisan office, they may not post links to, “share” or “re-tweet” comments or tweets from the Facebook page or twitter account of a political party or candidate running for partisan office. Such activity is deemed to constitute participation in political activities.

No direct links of “likes” to partisan sites (akin to distribution of literature)

…while off duty and away from the workplace, a further restricted employee may post on social media his opinion about a Presidential candidate, “share” a friend’s endorsement of a political party, or “like” a candidate’s Facebook page. However, the employee may not “share” a post from a campaign Facebook page, “retweet” a message from a political party, or “like” a post that requests contributions for a candidate.

Where to start?

First of all, OSD does realize that there is a lot more to social media besides Facebook and Twitter, correct? What about Snapchat, Yik Yak, Instagram, LinkedIn, Periscope, and others? Am I being pedantic? Well, that is my nature, but no, I don’t think so in this case. What this tells me is that those who wrote this really are not creatures of social media at all.

Let’s get away from that for a moment and look at the substance. Where we are is that the CO of Naval Base Swampy can park his 1997 Yugo in his designated parking space with his “LaRiva-Puryear 2016” bumpersticker, but Seaman Timmy can’t share a story about his hometown posted by the “Hoefling-Schulin 2016” on its Facebook page after their campaign bus broke down there?

Really? If he does this after hours, while on leave, via a medium where both the sender and receiver agree on both ends to see each other’s posts, he is in trouble as if he stood on stage in uniform and introduced a candidate?

Interesting republic we have become.

I would offer that this goes way too far. It also begs the question on who are the Facebook and Twitter police? Who is going to decide who is going to be held to account and who is not? What are the rack-and-stack criteria for deciding whose complaints are worth running after and whose isn’t?

This policy is both too specific, too vague, and is not in the spirit of the Hatch Act. It should be withdrawn and refined. If we are to err, let’s do that in line with allowing Shipmates a space to share their ideas with their friends, on their own time, in their preferred manner. The Hatch Act was clear and as such, was easy to follow and enforce. This? Not even close.

HashtagTime is a limited resource for leaders. While many leaders are passionate about leader development, they don’t always have time to study for self-development or plan development sessions where participants sit around and discuss an article, book or other topic. Both avenues of development are easily disrupted by competing priorities. Social media and mobile technology platforms are great resources for leaders to interact with others and build relationships that will lead to learning and development. One platform that works well is Twitter. The capabilities of Twitter combined with mobile platforms allow both self-development and leader-led professional discussions to take place in any location, at any time, and not be restrained by time and location. This post is about using Twitter for self-development and leading professional discussions as part of a leader development program.

Twitter 101 (Skip ahead to Leader Development if you are familiar with PLNs, self-development and Twitter)
Twitter is one resource that leaders can use for learning by developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN). A PLN is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner connects and interacts with for the purpose of learning. Learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge(Click here for a good blog about PLNs) .The learner does not have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person. This network is relatively easy to set up over Twitter and is a simple and powerful way to both self-develop and develop others. Twitter can be a great source of information if you know how to search for and evaluate the sources. There is a wide variety of information available on Twitter; for example, almost every magazine or professional publication posts on Twitter.

People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase in their Tweet to categorize those tweets and help them show up more easily in Twitter Search. The learner simply searches for the topic or, if they know a hashtag associated with the subject, they can use that as the terms for the search (see screenshots below). For example, one of the screen shots below shows a search for “Land Warfare” and the results delivered range from various individuals to “Doctrine Man”, to ”Pakistan Defence”.

Search for Land Warfare on Twitter for iPad

Search for Land Warfare on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Leadership on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Leadership on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Innovation on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Innovation on Twitter for iPad

Once the results are delivered learners can sort through the posts and evaluate the information. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows all the other tweets marked with that keyword. Many of these posts will have links to blogs or articles that contain information the learner is looking for. As the learner finds reliable posts, they can follow the user and build their PLN ( It is also interesting to see who the users you are following, follow as well.) One way to evaluate whether a user on Twitter is credible is by the number of follows and followers they have. Learners can also check out previous tweets by the source, which is another way to evaluate if the source is credible or not. The reporters and other contributors that work for most major news organizations post to Twitter as well and can be a good addition to a PLN.

Leader Development Program
Twitter is a great way to share information to develop others. Leaders connect with their subordinates over Twitter and share relevant content with a hashtag. Twitter can also be used for “Twitter Chats” . Twitter chats are chats that occur using a hashtag. Instead of tweeting one-on-one learners are now engaged in a conversation with many people around a particular topic or piece of content such as an article or blog post. Pictures and other media can be used as well to add more context to discussions. Twitter chats lets a group maximize their time on Twitter and participate in existing conversations when it is convenient for them. Twitter chats can take place over extended periods, and from any location, extending learning and development well beyond the walls of an office, building, or other location commonly used for these sessions. This capability lengthens the period of engagement and can lead to higher quality discussions, which might not be attainable in a normal face-to-face professional development session that is constrained by time and location (a leader development session scheduled from 1-2pm in a conference room). There are also tools available, like Storify for example, that can help learners manage and archive the chats for later reference. Through professional discussion, leaders can get to know their subordinates better and evaluate their level of competence, which can help build trust in an organization.

Leaders develop subordinates by creating experiences. Professional discussion is one of those experiences. It canimprove learning and leader development across an organization. When time is a limited resource, social media is an excellent and simple way to engage subordinates in professional discussion.

Leadership counts!

Disclaimer: This theory of mine is only mine, and is not the thinking or policy of the US Navy or NATO. Further more, this is only the second time I’ve even mentioned my thoughts below to anyone. I am not Public Affairs trained, and so I am probably very, very wrong in all that I say… 

To read the first part of this series click here.

Part four: The People (or, attention is demanded, content is king, and it’s hard to smell roses).

Three people, at the very least, is required to manage a robust and content diverse social media profile. This requirement is temporality based, with one person focusing on new content, one for posting content and being the person behind the profile(s), and another for gathering and monitoring metrics derived from the effort.

The biggest driver behind this requirement is the amount of attention demanded in participating in social media. Many simply stop at posting content on social media. Where as doing so only counts (at most) for ~30% of what can/should be done on social media. For instance, the last two years have seen a major push by news organizations (namely newspapers) to make their content more social. Dependent upon the sentiment of the news stories or other variables (e.g., is there anything in the story that was incorrect, is there supplemental information that could be provided to audiences that didn’t otherwise fit into the news story, is there any sentiment worth underscoring) there can be a major benefit to engaging audiences discussing news of your organization. Such an effort can consume significant amounts of time, which in turn precludes the ability of a single person to additionally create content unique to the organization, or to run metrics which accurately capture and demonstrate what resulted from the effort.

An additional thing worth mentioning is regarding participation in social media. I only wish to touch on it briefly (Though, itself deserves a thousand words). The person actually participating in social media is a spokesperson on par with, and every bit important as a media spokesperson. The skill sets for each differ significantly, each demanding in their own ways. Increasingly a social media spokesperson is becoming as important as the traditional media spokesperson.

If roughly 30% of one’s time is consumed by sharing ‘new’ or original content (more on original content later), and roughly 30% is consumed by participating in commenting on news; the remaning 30-ish percent is spent engaging with audiences at the organization’s social media profiles. The effort spread across these three areas, is beyond any notion of ‘branding’. Instead this time is spent establishing the organization’s culture for the audience (I will expand upon this notion in greater detail in a later post).

Lastly, the social media spokesperson is not be a nine-to-five job. It really should be treated 24/7, especially if your organization spans across time zones and cultures. With a worldwide audience, part of your audience is awake and talking about things while you sleep. This is not to say that the spokesperson can’t sleep, or can’t take a break. Rather, this is to say that a shift in mindset as to what it means to be ‘at work’ is necessary. Just as those who use social media for personal reason post casually through-out the day and night, regardless if it is the weekend or not; so too must the spokesperson, only with more earnest goals and objectives for their effort. An additional remedy is to look at who the audience is, and with enough time and though, understanding the rhythm at which the conversation flows.

In consideration of the demands outlined above, another person must be dedicated to original content creation. It is very easy to be a content aggregator online (also known as sharing on facebook, or retweeting on twitter). To a certain extent it is necessary to share content relevant to, but not created by, your organization (George Takei has earned himself over 3 million followers by aggregating content created by others). However, sharing and retweeting of content not created by an organization cannot fully define what the organization is. Thus, original content is necessary, and should be produced in quantities that adequately compliments the shares and retweets.

Doing this is a fulltime job that can quickly demand a number of disparate skills. Graphics, videos, stories, and memes (of all varieties) are labor intensive and time sensitive. But, it is original content that anchors any message on social media to a desired course. Without original content an organization’s message is dependent on the whims of others that cannot be fully controlled, leaving an organization’s narrative ill defined.

Having a blend of shared and original content, and having participated in the discourse, an organization still needs to know what resulted from the effort. To adequately measure the effort a third person, not apart of creation or engagement, is necessary. The amount of data generated on social media is massive and available in near real-time. Pure numbers are easy–if you want to measure how many ‘likes’ you got in a given amount of time, it’s no problem to look at the graphs provided by facebook, or any third party service. But, as I said in my previous post, the true power of social media is ‘in between the lines’.

Of all the types of analysis there is for social media one continually defies any attempts to automate: sentiment analysis, especially when the discourse spans multiple languages. Sentiment analysis is vital since a profile can increase in popularity for bad reasons as easily as it can for good. If your organization wishes to be a strong advocate for something, the number of likes, shares, or retweets will not inform you if you have been successful in its advocation. Think of it this way: When do you personally talk about something with your friends, or with strangers? When you really like something, or when you really don’t? Across society it probably cuts close to 50/50 between those who tend to talk about a topic in a negatively and those who tend towards positive context. Thus any volume metric (numbers of things) does not give the full picture–deeper analysis is demanded. ‘Semantic based analysis’ (Not sure if that is a real term or not. But, it makes sense to term it as such, in my mind at least) is the only way to get a true sense of an organization’s accomplishments on social media.

Such semantic based analysis must include content outside pure social media (i.e. other mediums), and delve into news sources (including newspapers, televised news, magazines), blogs, and conceivably anywhere the organization might be discussed. Observing the effects in other mediums is vital, because such semantic analysis does not meet the criteria for Godel’s Completeness theorem, but does for his second Incompleteness Theorem–multiple cultures, multiple languages, spread across multiple (if not all) time zones add so many semantic variables that logical deduction, derived from number of likes, shares and the rest, is not possible. To verify the consistency, validness, and soundness of an organization’s use of social media the effects in mediums other than social media is demanded.

To be honest, even in my professional use of social media, I have not been able to follow the above guidelines exactly. But, from what I have been able to do as a part of a social media team, I have come to understand the necessity of all I said above. With social media being as new as it is, with new capabilities to measure an organization’s effects nearly every day, there is always more to be done. What constantly amazes me is how we as a species are able to do things of our own device and yet hardly understand what we’re doing at all–fascinating and troubling all at the same time.

Again, we’re well past a thousand words. So, I will leave this post where it is. More to come later next week. I think some of the comments got lost in the migration to Discus. Apologies for that, I promise I am reading the comments and will participate in them.



The way the Navy implements policy has remained largely unchanged in 237 years. The Navy identifies a need, prepares a response, and mandates it from above[i]. This top-down approach cannot work in social media—or any field that is highly technical and rapidly changing. The trajectory of social media development in the Navy has consisted of three largely indistinct phases: hesitant adoption, hasty implementation, and halting stagnation. What is needed now is a transition to a more open system aimed at lowering internal barriers to communication.

Social media use highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques to achieve social interaction. A McKinsey Consulting report recently estimated that “things like improved communication and collaboration from social media in four major business sectors could add $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value to the economy.” This value is mostly added through increased productivity. There are enormous gains to be had through connection and collaboration within the Navy.

The Navy and Marine Corps are two massive organizations and it takes considerable time to learn how to navigate within them successfully. Internal tools to break down communication obstacles are required. When a Marine 2nd Lieutenant learns that the canteens for her troops are leaking due to poor design, she should be able to quickly and easily reach the contractor to provide feedback. When the Navy decides to form a new staff to engage with Pakistan, a heritage Urdu speaker should be able to volunteer to contribute, even if he happens to be a Machinist Mate. As it is now, an enormous amount of human capital remains untapped because the right connections are not being made.

Read the rest of this entry »

Did you happen to catch the @ISAFmedia twitter feed in the last week? Or, ever? That feed is getting some considerable accolades from some of the more active members of the Twitterverse. Why? Because of the discourse that ISAF is having with individuals. Think about it for a minute. Rather than a citizen having to get their information by proxy during a press conference or statement, the citizen is now able to engage with ISAF (or any organization) directly. The nuance of message that such an ability allows serves to make the information availed by ISAF all the more cogent.

Read through the links recanting the conversations the @ISAFmedia account has had. It’s no easy feat, twitter moves fast with many people able to come at you at once–and never mind the time difference between those in the conversation. So, what does it take to be able to be the person at the helm of an organization’s social media? As usual, the Marines have exceptional guidance for where to begin. It’s no wonder too, the social media chief listed in their guidance is an E-5 (natch).

Listen to active audiences to determine how to best engage. The paradigm of telling everyone what they
need to know no longer carries significant weight when communicating via social media channels —
social media requires, and begins with, listening. If you don’t know and understand the audiences you are
communicating with, then the interaction will be of limited value. Listening to the online community and
complying with Department of Defense policies is paramount to communication success.
One thing I would add to their guidance for organizations is that after listening comes engagement, with enough engagement comes familiarity and with familiarity comes a rapport. The Marines have laid out what I’d consider the basic school for social media engagement (by anyone, it’s worth reading even if you only check facebook once a week). Their guidance will get you up to the familiarity point of social media engagement. After which, it is the individual at the helm which actually builds rapport.
The abilities of @ISAFmedia and their social media team are where the rest of the military’s engagement in social media needs to be. However, it is worth mentioning that one social media ‘personality’ does not and cannot work for all commands. By this, I mean that the topics relevant to a COCOM are significantly different from a rifle platoon, where topics are what drive personality. We don’t need dozens of @ISAF clones out there. What we do need are Service Members as informed and plain spoken as @ISAFmedia; able to hold their own in social media while imbued with the sensibilities outlined in the Marine’s social media guidance–IMHO.

So Navy Times scribe Phil Ewing sat down with me the other day to discuss blogging, the ex-USS Iowa, naval history and blogging. The result was a Scoop Deck interview, entitled “Hanging’ with Dr. Hooper“. If you want to know why I do this–and why I’m retiring the old “Defense Springboard” alias, go pay Scoop Deck a visit.

In the interview, we discussed how blogging has become a means to for new defense policy/national security talent to emerge. Having the trillion-dollar defense industry tied to three or four oft-quoted defense commentators is not healthy. The community needs a more voices–whose views are not compromised by where they’re getting their paycheck.

In the interview, I threw down a marker for those big-league defense commentators:

“…what I’d like to sort of try and be is the anti-Loren Thompson. Loren is a great source, a smart person, but he’s become so ensnared in his competing interests, it’s difficult to take him credibly [a good example is here].”

Uh…can you hear us bloggers now, Loren? Or are you at the beach?

(To be honest, I’ve been Loren bashing a long time–back before it was cool to do so. Here’s some coverage of Loren contradicting himself on the LCS back in September 16, 2009 and Loren doing a ex-SECNAV Winter apologia from early 2008. In my mind, good, solid debate makes for better strategies and better weapons…but when paid flacks enter the public sphere they, more often than not, protect errors and work to sustain mistakes.)

In the interview I pushed back on the choke-hold Washington, DC holds on defense policy debates. That’s normal–DC is the center of gravity, where the decision-makers live. But over-centralization leads to group-think and limits input. So, in my mind, it’s good to build and maintain separate, independent centers of defense policy expertise.

Let’s put it this way. San Francisco isn’t exactly synonymous with defense expertise–but it’s growing–from scratch–a community of defense policy people:

“…doing it out here in San Francisco has been great. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this. We’re starting to build a policy community where there wasn’t one. We’ve got Kyle Mizokami, he’s blogging about the Japanese navy and the Japanese self defense force; we have Christopher Albon [note: when he’s not off doing thesis research in Africa]. It’s neat to build a competing center to provide a little bit of a a reality check on the Beltway bloggers, so to speak.”

San Francisco doesn’t have a critical mass of defense policy expertise available–yet. But in a few years, who knows? Wait and see…

Finally, well, we discussed civil-military communication. Though the military has made enormous progress in engaging, it still has a way to go:

“…When the military loses its ability to communicate itself and its ideas in a patient way, that’s disturbing. That weakens the very fabric of our nation. It’s tremendously important for the military to learn how to engage and explain itself to its citizens. In this era of complex weapons, of projects, of complex strategies, it really needs to go the extra mile and tell its message. Anything I can do in that regard, I feel like, is time well spent…”

And time well spent it is….Go read the interview. And if you want more perspective on this interview–my politics and the like, go check out and read about it over there.

Admiral Allen of the US Coast Guard

A couple of days ago, I posted part 1 of my interview with Adm. Allen, Commandant of the Coast Guard, regarding social media. Below is part 2.

Q8: There are a number of units that have created Twitter accounts to release official news and connect with the public. Is this something we will be seeing from more units, possibly as an added aspect of the PA rates assigned to the various units around the country?
A8: We don’t require field units to adopt or employ any particular tool. We have provided some overarching policy and guidance that allows them to make their own assessment, based on their mission requirements, of how social media tools might be leveraged to improve their performance.

Q9: What is the best way for members of the Coast Guard interested in contributing to the social media outlets to get involved?
A9: As I stated in my “Way Ahead” message, “Unfortunately, it is impossible to ensure that information passed via the social media is complete and accurate, thus, the reader has to assume responsibility for judging the validity of the information.” Simultaneously, the social media environment, and the information within it, is becoming increasingly influential. Thus, we need to be aware of what is being said on Coast Guard related topics and, when appropriate, contribute to the dialogue.

As part of our social media initiative we have released two interim policy ALCOASTS (458/08 & 548/08). These give clear guidance on how members of Team Coast Guard can influence the information environment in both official and unofficial capacities. Consistent with our long-standing public affairs philosophy, “If you do it or are responsible for it, you can talk about it.”

One of the benefits and challenges to us with social media is the speed in which it moves. The Coast Guard cannot expect to continue operating strictly in the hierarchical, top-down fashion, but must also adapt to be more horizontal and collaborative or face organizational obsolescence. This is a significant cultural change for us, but I am confident that our outstanding people possess the knowledge and judgment to be able to more efficiently monitor and evaluate the information environment they operate in and effectively and deliberately engage in the dialogue to further Coast Guard strategic objectives and benefit mission execution and support. This has to be done with appropriate consideration of information release guidelines that are designed to protect the Coast Guard and its members from any harms associated with unauthorized release of protected or non-public information, but it has to be done.

Q10: Are there plans to make use of the pervasiveness of social media for disseminating information during emergency situations?
A10: We have begun doing this in an ad hoc fashion. More formally, our Public Affairs program is looking both internally within the service and also working with DHS Office of Public Affairs and sister components to incorporate social media into the official Emergency Support Function (ESF) 15 practices.

Q11: With the Coast Guard’s transition to FORCECOM/OPCOM and with respect to these particular commands, is the Coast Guard looking to invoke a permanent presence on the Internet with regards to continual social media updating or monitoring? I know this is currently being done by District/Area External Affiars, however, there seems an advantage of having full time (24/7) monitoring which could be done by the new Command Center structure.
A11: We are looking at including a 24/7 social media/public affairs watch in the future.

Q12: At the headquarters level, or even your direct staff, what kind of an element is monitoring the health of the Coast Guard on the internet?
A12: Just as we have always done press clippings to assess attitudes and opinions being communicated on the Coast Guard and its roles and responsibilities, we do the same assessment when it comes to social media. This is consistent with our goal of a more nimble and adaptable organization that actively senses the environment, recognizes changes and trends, and responds accordingly in the interest of mission execution, mission support and public stewardship.

Q13: As Commandant have you felt push-back from the commands around the country to not be so involved on the Internet?
A13: There has not been push-back, but there has been thoughtful discussion about the risks/benefits of this new information environment.

The fact is, the environment has changed and we have no control over that, so the choice is: either ignore the change, which subjects our organization to all of the risks with none of the benefits; or adapt to the environment, where we can mitigate the risks and leverage the benefits.

We have chosen the latter and we have been pleased with the early results. That being said, adapting to this environment is a significant cultural change and some people are more comfortable with it than others, but the more successes we achieve and share, the more adopters we are going to have and eventually it will be a natural part of how we operate.
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Great insight into the social media movement in the Coast Guard. As I said in part 1, I’m thrilled that the Coast Guard is heading in this direction. On a side note, Adm. Allen has apparently created an official Twitter account for the Commandant. What convenient timing!

Once again, thank you to Adm. Allen for taking the time to provide us with this interview and inside perspective on the Coast Guard’s social media initiative. Semper Paratus!

Photograph by Tidewater Muse

Admiral Allen of the US Coast Guard

I did an interview in April with Adm. Thad Allen, the 23rd Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, regarding social media & the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has been spearheading a move into the world of Web 2.0 and interaction with the public through online outlets, and Adm. Allen has been a prominent part of that transition. Here is the text of that interview:

Q1: Can you describe your personal social media journey?
A1: It would take more room than is available on a single blog. The work that really got me interested was a book. “In The Age of the Smart Machine” was written by Harvard Professor Shoshanna Zuboff. It was one of the pivotal points in my life. I was leaving my assignment as Budget Officer at Maintenance and Logistic Command, Atlantic and headed to the Sloan School at MIT. This book deals with the transition of the work environment and the nature of our work from a physical and material world to one where our work is virtual and invisible to the eye. A couple of other books that have influenced me have been Chaos, Linked, and Nexus. Social media is the merging of social networks with information technology. I have followed both for many years so this is pretty natural.

Q2: We are focusing on leadership this month in the Coast Guard. Which USCG leadership competencies relate most directly to social media? In which leadership competencies do the internal and external social media tools hold the most promise?
A2: Depending on how you are using it, social media could relate to just about all of them, but to answer your question I’ll choose one from each category:

  • Leading self: Self-awareness and learning – Social media is all about transparency and feedback and this makes us more aware as leaders, better able to understand complex issues and respect differing opinions, and more able to sense and adapt to changing conditions.
  • Leading others: Team building – Social media tools can empower individual team members to more actively provide input to and influence the outcome of a project or decision. This improves collaboration and information exchange among team members and ultimately results in a better final product.
  • Leading performance and change: Customer focus – The “social” aspect of this new information environment facilitates two-way communications. This allows Coast Guard leaders to better understand the needs, perspectives and opinions of our customers and to help them better understand the reasoning behind a certain decision or course of action we may take that effects them.
  • Leading the Coast Guard: Partnering – Social media facilitates greater collaboration and provides practical ways to engage the numerous internal and external stakeholders involved in or impacted by our broad world of work.

Q3: Has thought been given to having a deployable team (perhaps as part of the DOG) of social media specialists to respond to major events and incidents? While general social media competency for all members and high level competency for PA should be a goal it seems it would be useful to have a deployable team in the interim and perhaps as an ongoing resource for high profile events.
A3: Keeping in mind that this question relates to the external aspects of social media, I think that our Public Affairs specialist are the right people to orchestrate our social media efforts during a critical incident. Much of what takes place in the social media realm already falls in their world of work and we have seen them interact in that environment with great effect, including during Hurricane Ike, the Miracle on the Hudson, and most recently with the floods in North Dakota. The external component of social media is an extension of our existing public affairs policies and practices and the public affairs program is taking a strategic look at the competencies and tools required for the future in terms of how it trains and equips its people.

Q4: One of the great features of social media is accessibility from almost anywhere at any time. How are we addressing the tension between security and access? This seems to go two ways – access to the public social media tools from inside the CGDN and access to the internal tools for those temporarily, such as being off duty or not on reserve service, or permanently, like most Auxiliarists, outside the CGDN/Portal. Our members engaged in social media activities as part of their duties appear to utilize the public tools through their own resources, largely on their own time. At the same time, for the Portal/Quickr platform to be fully effective it seems problematic for access to be limited to the duty period for active, reserve and civilian members and inaccessible to most of the Auxiliary.
A4: All great points and we have addressed this on numerous occasions on my blog and during different interviews. There will always be a tension between security and access. Our ability to exist on both the .gov and .mil domains brings with it certain security responsibilities that we cannot overlook in order to maintain the integrity of those critical networks. That being said, we recognize the strategic and operational value of social media and have directed our IT staff to find ways for us to do both. The new portal, which we are gradually phasing in, is already enhancing our ability to use social media for internal purposes. We are also working on the off-duty access issues.

Q5: For the Guardian new to social media where would you suggest they start? Internal tools or external? Building competence as privately as an individual or jump right in as part of their duties?
A5: The strength of social media is that it is flexible and adaptable to your specific needs. The first step is to develop awareness of what the different tools are and how they may be used and then consider the potential benefit they may bring to your job or unit. Ultimately, everything we do is assessed on its contribution to mission execution or mission support.

Q6: Along the same lines, what sites/blogs/books would you suggest to build social media competence, the Commandant’s Social Media Reading List?
A6: I just published something like that as my 200th blog. It is here:

Q7: Do you have examples of best practices use of social media within the Coast Guard?
A7: First we have to acknowledge that our formal foray into social media is still in its infancy. So far, the most visible activities have related to external communication. This was done deliberately, as this was the low-hanging fruit that we could use to gain some organizational inertia. These specific efforts have significantly enhanced our presence in the blogosphere, helping us to inform the Coast Guard narrative and we have seen very positive results in terms of our customer interaction, particularly with the maritime community through maritime focused blogs.

Some of this was already being done by Coast Guard employees on their own initiative, like JD Cavo from the National Maritime Center ( or this example by Jorge Arroyo, correcting some critical misinformation on a sensitive rule-making issue ( Internally we are trying to increasingly use wikis to improve the efficiency and quality of the rule making and policy development processes. We expect these activities to accelerate as the new portal is brought on-line and more employees begin to champion these tools.
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This interview is coming on the heels of a report published by the National Defense University titled “Social Software and National Security: An Intial Net Assessment” which discusses the use of social media in government agencies to share information both internally & with the public. I think this indicates an important shift in the institutional mindset of government in relation to the Internet & interaction with the American people, and I’m proud that the Coast Guard is at the forefront of this shift.

Thanks to Adm. Allen for taking the time to do this interview. I’ll be publishing part 2 in a couple of days.

Photograph by Tidewater Muse


…And We’re Live!

December 2008


Always gotta be someone messing about in the punchbowl.

No matter, I never read that guy’s blog anyway.