Like all new roll-outs it is about getting your branding right, and this blog is no different. Though we have been around for a couple of years due to the new direction I am taking in my communication efforts, my project here requires a make-over. That, and the podcast effort is going to be somewhat revolutionary, but not likely to cause much of a stir. That I know of there are no major non-service sponsored podcasts targeted at soldiers by an individual, and I feel the NCO Guide blog and podcast are the natural migration away from tethered communication and discussion in forums using modern methods to get a dose of information. The NCO Guide will be the communication effort of Command Sergeant Major Dan Elder, US Army Retired and my hand-picked collaborators to share relevant knowledge and information products in a variety of digital formats for consumption for Soldiers while on the go. We are going to do that using current or emerging push technologies and we are going to give it away for free.
My challenge to pull this off will be three fold and I think my initial hurdles will be:
Provide fresh and relevant content – This is the most obvious concern, we don’t want to just be publishing bullshit posts and audio files that soldier’s don’t care about, but rather highlight important topics that are sincere and open while remaining professional. The way to get people to tune in or read is by giving them what they want, not what I think they want.
Accepted, but not Endorsed – Key will be access to military members without putting them at risk. I would hope we are able to have conversations with or guest blogs by select sergeants and it is important to our ability to communicate to not have them censored by lawyers or public affairs offices. Its not a wink-wink, nod-nod approach, but a courtesy by professionals to understand blogs and podcasts are becoming the 21st century newspapers and radio. The Army needs to afford us the same access as they give to other traditional news media and we should be alright. And just as we saw post migration of the NCO Website, this type of communication must be grassroots and not coming from the official Army or the message gets too watered downed with minutia and lawyers.
My own limitations in Creativity – I like to think I am savvy enough to notice trends and shifts, but I don’t think I am cutting edge enough. I do believe that as traditional entertainment rapidly declines and individuals are more and more in charge of what and how to receive personal entertainment, it is apparent to me that there need to be a broader selection of available content. People are growing more accustomed to new ways to get their content and in this day and age it is tied to the smartphone. Aggregators and apps abound, and people read and listen more so using smart devices, but alas I no longer serve and are faced with the day-to-day realities of modern service so I will be running on perceptions and assumptions. I believe the way around that is the formation of a brain trust of people like the NCOteam.org Peer Mentor network that helped the Team stay in tune wit the field, which is key to all of this.
I did not set-out to revolutionize how sergeants communicated outside their local boundaries when I created squad-leader.com and my team allowed it to be gifted to the Army as NCOnet, it just happened. Sadly it was killed off in Sept 2013, so like in 1997, I see that itch needing to be scratched. Last time we did it without a road map or study because we saw a need and moved out. We did it by throwing things on the wall to see what sticks and we were not buried in layers of oversight and management. Last time I could not properly dedicate the time to the management and oversight to allow us to grow and become more mainstream in the Army and though the NCO corps generally adopted what we were doing, there were just as many who wanted nothing to do with it. Now I feel I am able to identify opportunities and exploit them for the communities benefit, so that should not be the case now.
If I heard it once I heard it 11 times that soldiers should get their information from their chain of command, which was why so many alternative methods of exchanging information have been killed off. Oldsters will remember the NCO Listserv. There were so many people who thanked me repeatedly when NCOnet took over that function. Many people hated either the tone and language of that medium, or how it was used. Others loved it as a way to stay informed because by their own admission they were lacking information continuity somewhere in their chain of command. It is the paradigm of Knowledge is Power and some do not believe it should be shared in alternative fashions outside of command channels. The Grapevine has been around for a longtime. You can pretend it doesn’t exist but a wise and effective leader will know how to use it, and this is not much different.
That wise poet Ricky Bobby was quoted as saying that “if you aint first, you’re last.” Blogs are nothing new but what is new (for us) is how we will extend our blog to other mediums. First up will be our project to allow soldiers to take our message to another sensory nerve, the ear. We have to get voluntary professional development and growth beyond the sound bite or our feeds, but we need educated dialog to get people thinking and away from groupthink. Whether commuting to work, running, or just flipping through the dial or iTunes, we intend to be the provider of choice for valuable content for soldiers. We will use traditional blogging methods, interviews, and guest bloggers to expand the written message, and visitors, interviews and call-ins to extend the content of our podcast. We will look to other methods like the weekly newsletter to aggregate and push news and information.
Checkout the brand and tell us what you think, and feel free to share your thoughts on my three assumptions or bring up other challenges you may have thought of.
Command Sergeant Major, US Army, Retired