The Department of Homeland Security is not known for its effective strategic communications, but every so often, the Department gets it right.
Americans love speed. It is buried deep in their psyche. The good news is we move information fast. The bad news is we sometimes move it too fast. The news of the recent Boston Bombings spread as quickly but far more broadly through social media. The dizzying volume and speed of information was breathtaking. So was the misinformation, rumor and desire to be the first – right or wrong. Thus the challenge of the Internet Age begins – can news be speedy and accurate?
In a democratic society, the government’s job is to serve the people. The same can be said of the press. Of late, however, both pillars in the American experiment have fallen short of their raison d’etre. At the recent National Association of Government Communicators Communications School, I met some government public affairs officers and journalists having a frank and friendly conversation about how we can do better.
With the recent heat waves and storms that have impacted millions of people throughout the United States, much is being written about the nation’s inability to prevent and recover quickly from destructive events. I am not yet ready to start placing blame – there are lots of things I should have done to be prepared. Individual responsibility leads to community preparedness. Here are some thoughts the disruptions bring to mind.
A recent Twitter exchange between the Taliban and the U.S. military shows how social media is evolving and how its current stage of development involves the use of Twitter to wage war on an ideological level. Over the past several years, social networking sites have become a catalyst for users to achieve political objectives. The U.S. Government and its security forces need to be constantly aware of how the enemy’s use of social media is evolving and proactively plan for ways to win the social networking battle.
A panel at the MilBloggers Conference provided a very interesting discussion earlier this month. The main point of the meeting is that the news media covers the military differently. Social media is driving fast reporting online and has created a constant drumbeat for information NOW. The panel was asked if this effect has created a tabloid-type, low quality product today. The reporters agreed blogs add a valuable corrective and much positive context to the media landscape.
For several years, Security Debrief contributors have joined Francis Rose on Federal News Radio to discuss security issues and the role of the Federal government. For the homeland and national security crowd, In Depth with Francis Rose offers insightful and informative discussions, and there is a growing audience of listeners outside the Beltway. Recently, the news and talk radio magazine TALKERS added Francis Rose to its annual list of the top 250 talk show hosts in America.
Throughout history, wars have often turned on the success or failure of seizing the high ground. Waterloo, Gettysburg, the Battle of Hastings, D-Day all depended on taking the heights, and the results of these battles changed the tides of wars and history. Today is no different, but the high ground looks much different on the Internet.
For better or worse, social media is the billboard of our lives in today’s digital world. Recent news stories detailing how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was monitoring media outlets, news sites, and other social networking platforms have raised some eyebrows, but it would be completely irresponsible for DHS, intelligence, or law enforcement authorities to ignore these valuable resources and the information and insights they can provide.
I just worked my way through multiple social media feeds from federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies. I wanted to stick a paper clip in my eye. The lack of thought put into the posts and clear lack of interest in engaging community members is obvious. The continuous desire on the part of government agencies to “control the message” is self-defeating. Guys: You’re not controlling any message.