26 December 2008

Toward more guidance Soldiers could use ...

Thanks to the Unofficial Coast Guard Blog for pointing me towards a couple interesting pieces about corporate blogs. While the comments on the posts are geared toward the civilian world and "official" blogs, the suggestions are really appropriate to anyone blogging. In this case, I think they should certainly be included in any training for Soldiers who are interested in entering the blogosphere.

The first post is on thenextweb.com which stated, first, that only 1 in 6 people find corporate blogs trustworthy. I'll ask some more questions about perceptions toward official military blogs some other time. For the time being, suffice it to say that this, at its roots, is a problem with credibility! So, how then do the authors suggest we can improve this? Consider this comment about corporate (i.e. produced by the PR department) blogs:
the pieces of personal PR are often isolated, living a life within the .com domain of the company. No outgoing trackbacks, social media presence, or articles about phenomena outside the safe haven of the offices.

Turn this around and there are several suggestions for authors to consider:
  • don't link just to your own blog or others in your "world" - in other words, use variety
  • allow and show trackbacks - it allows your readers to follow tangents of your stories
  • have variety in your posts - something beyond the "safe haven" of Soldiering? Okay, the analogy doesn't fit, but the idea still does ... keep variety in your topics
Another bit from this post that is worth commenting on is:
Teach a PR person the fine art of community management 2.0. Give him a free pass for Twittering, Digging, Stumbling, and blogging all the day

Replace "PR person" with "Soldier" and you've got a good suggestion applicable to this project. Again, perhaps its a bit of a stretch to apply this completely to Soldiers - I'm certainly not advocating allowing them to blog all day! Nor am I convinced of the usefulness of Twitter from the "war for public opinion" perspective. But, the most important part of that quote is "teach" - in order to help many of our Soldiers be effective bloggers, we need to teach them about it. I'm still working on ideas for how best to do this education thing ... more to follow on that subject.

The final bit of that short post (I believe these comments my be longer than the original post, but anyway ...) that is worth highlighting is:
Oh, and don’t forget to have a look at some fine examples

This is nothing new. It's been mentioned on this very blog by Tristan_Abbey:
I would recommend training by example: put together a portfolio of half a dozen pieces posted by folks like Michael Yon, Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal, and others. This way the soldiers can see what effective blog posts look like, how they are written, and what kind of content they contain.

The other post linked from CGB is to Web Strategy by Jeremiah which discusses various attributes of the best blogs. I found these to be not earth-shattering, but written well, simply, and applicable to guidance that can eventually be put in the hands of Soldier bloggers, so I'll reprint them (edited) here. For the full list and a way to diagnose your blog as "great", "good", or "horrible" check out Jeremiah's original post.
1. Writing style: Written in a human voice
2. Topics: Discusses the lifestyle (or workstyle) of actual customers
3. Humility: Admits when wrong and discusses in open the short comings of the company and product and demonstrates in public how it will be improved
4. Linking Behavior: Links out to other sources, even competitors or critics as well as the next listed
5. Customer Inclusion: Allows for customers to guest blog, or includes snippets of their experiences
6. Dialog: Comments enabled and published instantly
7. Comment Moderation: Comments (other than spam or off topic) are allowed, including direct disagreements
8. Frequency:While more isn’t always better, having a steady rhythm of content is important

Obviously, that list is tailored for folks in the business world, not in the military. Regardless, the ideas still apply. I found items 1 and 2 to be exactly what many of you have said attracts you to milblogs - they're written by, and in the voice of, a Soldier on patrol and they contain personal stories you won't read anywhere else. Words like product and customers could easily be replaced with mission and public and the suggestion would apply to a Soldier.

On the topic of useful tips for effective blogging, you may also want to take a look at:
One of the main products that I intend to produce from this project is a one or two page "smart sheet" that would be aimed at helping a Soldier enter the blogosphere for the first time and begin to tell his or her story. Any other ideas that you have for things that should (or should not!) be included on such a product, please leave them here. Also, if you've come across (or created!) any useful lists of dos and donts of blogging or ways to increase interest and readership in a blog, those would be sincerely appreciated. Thanks!


  1. Hi
    You have a good blog.
    Please visit my fun blog on:
    Be happy.

  2. I found your blog through a post at Milblogging.com. I think the premise of this blog is an excellent one. I've been following Milblogs since I stumbled upon Colby Buzell's My War: Fear and Loathing in Iraq, back in the summer of 2004.

    Needless to say back then, CB's blog caused quite a stir at the Pentagon and much subsequent gnashing of teeth throughout the military chain of command.

    It's good to see that the military has come to understand the positive results that Milblogs in general can have on both the military and non-military community.

    I wish you success with your blog project and a very Happy New year.

  3. Thanks for the support, membrain. The Army is certainly struggling with how much "freedom" Soldiers should have with new media. We're also struggling with how we can better engage new media as an organization: not just as individual Soldiers.

    It's not an easy problem - as many people have more eloquently written than I have, and many smarter people have studeid. But, it's a problem that deserves attention and solutions that take advantage of the tremendous benefits new media offers while ensuring we maintain appropriate security and on-line behavior.

    I hope that you will weigh in on the discussion ... your comments are important to this project. I'm just one guy with little experience in the blogosphere. I trust that those of you with more experience will share those experiences and your ideas. Thanks!