08 November 2008

Keeping it credible ...

Some great feedback from yesterday's post inquiring about how to educate Soldiers to be effective bloggers. Thanks! This interaction - bouncing ideas around and hearing your thoughts - has gotten me fired up about this project. I appreciate your comments ... keep them coming!

There are a couple of key points that came up throughout the comments I want to highlight here which all seem to speak to one idea - credibility. Without credibility we get nowhere ... check that, we go backwards. And that's not what I'm looking for.

If the Army truly decides to encourage Soldier blogging, then we've got to be willing to accept the good with the bad. This is hard for many leaders to accept and, I suspect, one of the big reasons we haven't embraced this idea yet. In fact, I hinted around at this problem in my earlier posts when I mentioned getting "good news out there." Obviously, that would be the primary intent, but along with that, we must accept that all there is to say is not necessarily "good news." If it looks like government produced propaganda, it won't be respected as credible information. If it seems like nothing but cheerleading it won't be of as much interest and will likely lose credibility. In a way, I guess, keeping it real keeps it credible.

Another comment made concerned the role of Public Affairs Officers (PAO) in this process. I agree with LT N's comment and Galrahn's elaboration that if all we want to do is get the official messages out then PA's fully qualified to do this. He's exactly right that I'm thinking about much more than that - I want to get more Soldier's stories out as part of the Army story. And PA can't do that as effectively as Soldier's themselves. There's just something inherently credible hearing about someone's experiences, challenges, thoughts, from that person - not through some filter. Of course there's a vital role for PA and mainstream media. I'm just looking for a way to round it out, add a bit more variety.

Now, could PA have a role in blogging? Obviously, if the command has a blog PA will be involved. But what about their role in any old Soldier blog? Would a Soldier be willing to consider the talking points developed by PAs? Would making our Soldier's aware of the messages their command is trying to send help them better frame their blog posts? Or would it detract from their credibility?

I think that if we were to provide these communication tools to our Soldiers "with no strings attached" it could only help. The reason I say this is because of the value of knowing the bigger picture when you're reflecting on your part of that picture. My personal experience has been that I can make a lot better sense about what my organization and I are up to when I truly understand what my higher commander's intent and vision is - some basic principles from developing orders that I think could apply well to the world of blogging.


  1. MAJ,

    PAOs are important, because their press releases could be blogged (like the MNF-I website) and used by the media as information for their stories. But it's important that PAOs let the internet world know they are PAOs and officially speaking for an organization. If a PAO is disguising as a soldier speaking his/her mind, that's considered "sockpuppeting" and is strongly looked down upon by the online community. I also think it's illegal under the infamous "you can't psyop the American people" law.

  2. Absolutely! In fact, I think "transparency" is critically important - let people know who you are and who/what you represent. As soon as this "sockpuppeting" is found out not only will that single source be uncredible, it will likely raise questions about other sources that are blogging - are they "real"?