Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blogs and PSYOP

An article from the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye today. The January 20 article: Military brass joins wired troops with the sub-head: “Admirals and generals hope to connect with soldiers via their own Facebook pages and blogs. But will they tweet?”

This got me thinking about the effectiveness of Blogs for communication and coincidentally for PSYOP. The article talks about how the GOFO (General Officers Fleet Officers) are hoping to use Blogs and Facebook to reach down through the depths of their command. Senior leaders almost never get a chance to reach their lower echelons in a regimented top down structure such as the military. These senior officers have recognized that the old “Company Bulletin Board” in the Day Room is no longer the way to reach soldiers, sailors, airman and Coast Guard personnel. Embracing the latest technology will provide a more up to date electronic conduit down the chain of command.

However, since their Blogs and pages are open to all and since the GOFO will be using these mediums to express their philosophy and goals it is reasonable to assume that these ‘transmissions’ will have a PSYOP effect on individuals from outside the chain of command who have an interest in what this senior leadership is doing.

I’ve been writing this Blog for over a year now and while I diligently check Google Analytics to measure activity, I’ve determined it’s very difficult to measure effectiveness. Every once in a while I get a comment in response to a post. Thus far I have posted every comment received. Almost all of them are anonymous – but thus far all have been worth reading.

My take is that if a Blog is to have an effect the reader must have some kind of personal connection with the Blog author. Of course, not a direct one – but a linkage of thought either positive or negative. In many respects I believe the old selling principles apply here. First the ‘buyer’ has to be listening to you and have a positive impression of you (perhaps even ‘like’ you as an individual) before you can hope to present your case.

As for Facebook, I’m still learning that one and I’ve only connected with people I really know. Perhaps the senior officers mentioned in the article such as Adm. James Stavridis, who the article states is an avid blogger (check out: ) and who the article claims has over 240 friends on Facebook.

Bottom line: Blogs can be effective if the author sticks to what he knows and connects with readers.


Anonymous said...

Thanx for keeping us informed of the latest. I had no idea that this was going on.

SGT Holden
341st PSYOP Co. (ABN)

MAJ Jakob Bruhl said...

I agree with your analysis of the impact that GOs blogging can have. I'm wondering a bit about the value and risk of having dialogue about internal issues open for the public to see. Other than that aspect, I'm very encouraged by the potential benefit of senior leaders engaging with their subordinates - and others - through this technology.

I'd appreciate hearing other insights you may have into the idea of Soldiers blogging - am currently working on a project investigating how we can make better encourage and enable Soldiers to blog about their experiences. My blog is Soldiers in the Blogosphere (

Lawrence Dietz said...

Soldier blogging can be a very good thing – provide an outlet for the soldier, communicate to a wide audience that might benefit and contribute to general overall awareness.

Having said all that, there are serious OPSEC concerns. Soldier authors must take great care in not exposing themselves and their units. Remember that intelligence collection is cumulative and what might not seem important to the soldier is important to the enemy.

Secondly unlike civilians, soldiers do not have complete First Amendment rights. We cannot criticize the chain of command, our role is to follow and carry out orders, not offer debate and analysis.

Third there is the informal danger to one’s career. I often say that e-mail and Blogs are like tooth paste, once they’re out they are not going back into the tube. Blog commentary can lead to situations where their author may be unofficially or perhaps officially punished in some ways for their views.

As for GO Blogs, full candor requires caution. If the Blogs are only open to the chain of command then, IMHO they can be a good medium. By opening Blogs to all you are taking a shower in front of the world.