... is by clearly valuing bloggers! I participated (well, more accurately listened in on), my first bloggers roundtable hosted by the Army PA office. The subject today was a recent demonstration of robotic UXO removing equipment. The equipment isn't new - it's currently being used by USAF EOD stateside and overseas - but the application is new. The Army is examining how effective these tools will be for their Range Modernization Process.
Results from the test are promising that, with some upscaled versions of the equipment tested, the Army could more quickly and safely prepare ranges for modernization. If you're interested in more details, the transcript of the session is here.
The discussion was interesting, the demonstration was encouraging, but I was left with a number of questions. Not about the UXO robotics demo - the folks that did the demo were very clear and detailed in the descriptions and willing to answer questions. Rather, my questions were about the process itself. Lindy Kyzer, from the Army's Online and Social Media Division of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, responded very willingly to my questions. Here is what I learned about these roundtables (since I'm not much of a journalist, there are huge quotes from Lindy below):
The Army does regular blogger roundtables and traditional media roundtables. "Today's blogger's roundtable was just one part of a multipronged outreach strategy we have in public affairs - but what we've learned, especially in the past yearis that blogger outreach is really a core part of what we do because so many people are looking to blogs for news and information. In addition,a significant percentage of traditional media reporters say they look to blogs for ideas - so if we're not telling our story in the blogosphere,we're missing out on that opportunity, as well."
There's a core group of about 50 bloggers who participate in the blogger roundtables - usually about 5 or so in each discussion. "Because of the natureof the blogosphere, it's always evolving. Someone happens upon our program and will join in. Five is an ideal number for a conversation, but we'll have more or less than that at any given time."
These roundtables are receiving great feedback. "Bloggers are glad we're reaching out to them and respecting them as important news sources. We have a number of active-duty soldier bloggers who participate in our program, and they are extremely glad for the support of Army public affairs."
Bloggers play a new and important role in getting the Army's story out to people who are interested. "Depending on the topic, it [a blog] might reach out to people who are truly interested in Army issues in a more significant way. In addition, with the Web, you have a better guarantee that people are actively pursuing your information. Increasingly today, newspapers are ignored while people read their favorite blogs for information instead. And, because blogs cover niche topics, we can hold blogger's roundtables on a variety of issues that might not appeal to a wide-focused publication, but will appeal to blog readers."