In February of 2007, General David Patraeus announced a significant strategic shift in the Iraq war. But Patraeus’s plan ended up affecting more than just troops on the ground. Jack Holt, chief of new media operations at the Department of Defense (read our Q&A with Jack here), recently gave a presentation at Rethinking Corporate Communications, providing a glimpse at how this event altered the department’s communications strategy.
When Patraeus’s plan was announced, polling indicated that the public’s interest in military affairs was as high as ever — yet mainstream media coverage of the war had plummeted. What event stole the media’s attention away from military affairs? The death of Anna Nicole Smith.
The DoD recognized a need to rethink their media strategy and start working outside of the mainstream press. Rather than simply holding the traditional press conferences and sending out typical press releases, they set a progressive new course to reach the public on their own terms. The DoD set up regular conference calls connecting top military bloggers with generals. They built active communities across dozens of social networks and platforms to provide information directly to the masses. As a result of these new initiatives, overall media coverage spiked. In a remarkable turn of events, mainstream media began to use these social channel as sources, resulting in several page one stories.
So does the “create your own channel” strategy only work for the Department of Defense? Hardly. Mainstream media’s coverage of Blendtec began well after it had achieved YouTube stardom. Frank Eliason at Comcast was helping customers on Twitter from @comcastcares before he was featured in The New York Times.
If you find yourself crossing your fingers, hoping that your press release or e-mail blast reaches an editor, remember what your ultimate goal is: reaching the customer. The beautiful thing about social media is that we now have the ability to cut out the middleman. In the age of social media, businesses can reach their goals by interacting directly with customers. And if all goes well, you might just back into a feature story in The New York Times.
Image credit, inhauscreative, via iStock