Using Social Media For Strategic Communication Goals
Editor’s note: This is a re-post of an article John put together showcasing how the Navy top enlisted guy uses social media as part of his communication strategy. Since that original posting, MCPON West has increased his Facebook following to nearly 76,000 likes.
In another post, I mentioned that without integrating social media into your communication plan, you’re not reaching your full audience. Well, a great example of why it’s a smart idea comes from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), Rick West and his public affairs team.
I first met MCPON West when we both were stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters. Then, as it is today, his marching orders to the public relations strategists has always been consistent: message squarely in front of as many Sailors, junior officers and their families as possible, and in a format that resonates and sticks with them and starts discussions.
Back then (which cracks me up, since “back then” was less than six years ago), we had to rely on weekly op/ed pieces, Web sites and online publications, personal appearances, leadership e-mail trees and comment and feedback options. But hey, it was a start, and then-Fleet Master Chief West’s vision had us out in front because Sailors responded.
Now in a new and higher-profile job, his newer (and younger, digitally native) public affairs team took the lead by adding his message to social media. And, as before, he’s up front again since his team had him tweeting and such well before the DOD’s recent social media proclamation. And he was already advocating social media operational security prior to Israeli soldiers Facebooking their battle plans.
West’s strategic communication goal remained unchanged from his Pacific Fleet days: max number of Navy service and family members getting his message in a format that they can relate to and encourages dialogue.
So they boiled down the problem: MCPON always creates buzz, but the buzz usually stopped at internal communication forums such as base newspapers and personal visits with limited “what’s-in-it-for-me” to younger Sailors.
The solution they arrived at: Web site and online postings fed by traditional sources were limited. West’s team evolved the message to include tweeting, Facebooking and supported traditional outlets by adding imagery of MCPON on his Flickr profile, and his policy papers and stump speeches get added to Slideshare. They also crafted the message to strengthen the “what’s-in-it-for-me.”
The communication goal was to build and expand core messages for online formats and audiences while aligning those efforts with other traditional methods. Rightly so, they didn’t just abandon everything traditional and pay attention to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Rather they integrated them into the comprehensive communication strategy.
Now West has nearly 19,000 Facebook friends, more than 2,100 Twitter followers. He’s even popping up on live blog-based radio shows like Navy Wife Radio, which adds to the military-sponsored Internet presence like his official Leadership Web page and the Navy’s official Web site. Google search results for the MCPON range somewhere north of 184,000, with “mcpon rick west” being the number one suggested search term.
I’m no number-cruncher, but that seems like fairly solid results for a young program like this.
So, are these results the product of a specialized team of APR-accredited masters and doctorate degrees compiling reams of Web analytics and traffic metrics to develop strategies designed to reach target audiences?
Looks like they kept it simple – clear strategic goal, integrated social media and traditional media tools, sharp and empowered people, and some elbow grease.
The smart ones will follow now, because they realize any effective strategic communication partners with social media. As more civilian and military organizations understand and adopt this philosophy, the more successes they will show.
Another of Vox Optima’s former U.S. Navy journalists, John is heavily involved in media relations, communication strategy, copyediting and business development — when not keeping an eye on the Southeast for us in Athens, Ga. He also missed a meeting so he became one of our pioneer social media guys, so he can found all around the Internet. Connect up with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or as a last resort, you can shoot him an email.
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