Creating a World Wide Rave at Air Force Public Affairs Conference

For the past week, 350 Airmen and Air Force civilians have been meeting in Dulles, VA, at the 2009 U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Professional Development Seminar (we just call it the Worldwide).

UPDATE: March 25, 2009: Check out this post from the Acting Director of Air Force Public Affairs, Colonel Mike Caldwell.

The conference is a chance for everyone who works in public affairs (PA) to get together to share ideas and learn what others have been doing in their PA shop.

We discuss communication techniques that run from traditional media relations, to partnerships, to Combat Camera and Defense Visual Information. A big focus this year has been New Media Tactics. The Emerging Technology Division of AFPAA premiered their new book and video, both entitled “New Media and the Air Force,” and has been Tweeting (along with numerous other attendees) live updates from the event (follow #afpaww on Twitter). Though we’ve been engaging new media for little over a year through blogging, Air Force BlueTube, and Twitter, this conference has been the first chance to share these tools with other MAJCOMS and Airmen. The government and military have faced numerous challenges trying to get leadership buy-in to use social media. This is evident when we attend the Armed Services Social Media Working Group and hear the challenges our sister branches are facing. But we are making strides. Leadership is getting a little more comfortable with the idea of social media. President Obama’s executive order regarding transparency has also helped push this movement because government and military agencies now want to be sure that they’re sharing their stories in every media avenue. The reality is that social media is not going away and the government is going to have to adopt or miss out.

As more evidence of our strides, just look at who we had for our keynote speaker yesterday. David Meerman

David Meerman Scott
David Meerman Scott

Scott, author of five books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR and the just-published World Wide Rave. Why does that matter? Because Scott is a communicator with ideas that are atuned to new media, which is not the traditional thought process for military PAs. He discussed some of the ideas from World Wide Rave and how you can change your way of thinking to create a new, captivating product that gets noticed. Some of these ideas fall under the notion of “viral” marketing, some are just a complete shift on how to advertise your product. Will this work for the military? It’s hard to say, but it is apparent that Scott empowered the Airmen to think of media and communications differently. Now the Airmen are armed with new ideas to practice public affairs, and more importantly, a new way to tell the Air Force story to the public. Follow us online and look for more social media from other MAJCOMs and wings. Share your stories and suggestions and join the conversation. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

  • http://www.webinknow.com/ David Meerman Scott

    I really enjoyed spending time with you at the Worldwide. I am very impressed with what you are all doing and look forward to watching your progress. Best, David

  • http://www.natcapwg.cap.gov/abovethecapital/ Paul

    I would love to hear more details! This was a great idea.

  • John Miller

    It has become increasingly apparent that there is no longer a “general public” to which a cookie-cutter message can be disseminated. In its place is a highly segmented world in which individuals can filter and customize the information that they receive. While the private sector has already entered head first into the adoption of social media, much work remains for the government to catch up.

    Luckily, the new administration’s efforts for transparency mean great things for public affairs practitioners looking for new and innovative ways to tell stories. This rings especially true for the armed services branches who must maintain open lines of communication with the public. Without these avenues, the military mission may be misconstrued and public and political support may falter.

    With that said, I applaud the efforts of the administration, DoD, and the Air Force in particular, for pioneering the use of these new media. Simply maintaining a blog is a step beyond what many of the armed services can say for themselves – and recognizing the need for innovative public affairs is half the battle. Keep up the good work!

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