So, it hit me. My community needed to know a lot of information about the basics of living in Alaska, especially during the Winter.
I have lived in Alaska for the past three years, stationed at the remote base of Eielson Air Force Base. As the only Public Affairs Officer, I had the responsibility of providing key information to both my internal and external audiences regarding important base information, events, safety notifications, and directing community/media outreach.
Recently moving to Virginia, I started this new course about social media and the lessons in the course are actual revealing the importance of the things that I thought were mundane and standard practice.
In the book, Social Media Communication by Jeremy Harris Lipschultz, the author discusses the concept of social capital and its uses.
“Social capital is a popular idea within the social sciences and has been related to social interaction, trust, shared value and social media use [Lin and Lu, 2011]. It refers to the ability of individuals and organizations to benefit from communication behavior. In the context of social media, ‘Gaining social capital really means becoming a stronger, consistent member of the online community’ [Solomon, 2013, p.35].” (Lipschultz, p.110).
It seems like a rather simple thing, but trust is similar to currency. You can save, spend, gain, lose, or invest trust. Most times it is easy lose and often it is hard to gain. So it matters how my PA shop communicated with all the Airmen and their families about what was happening on my base. This made our presence and our interactions very relevant to our organization and how we voiced our commander’s priorities and how we received our members’ feedback.
Here is an example of Facebook graphic we would post for military exercises the occurred at Eielson. This particular item focuses on an Active Shooter exercise. It is important to effectively communicate prior to the event to ensure that someone does not think the simulation is the real thing and cause a panic in the immediate area or online. Our members relied on this type of content to help their families understand if some base facilities were participating or if some locations were closed for the day/off limits to non-active duty members.
Similarly, we would post information regarding road conditions and if there were any issues with late-reporting to duty or down days to ensure safety.
I really didn’t consider the importance. It seemed like a hassle and silly to make certain content. “Well of course the roads are slick, it -20 out with 3 foot of snow,” we would say, but it didn’t matter. We were building trust with our audiences. This made our jobs important and even better, effective.
We wanted to make our social media platforms a two-way street, a dialogue. Several times we commented back to members who gave us praise, thanking them for their feedback. Other times, we discussed grievances to try an rectify using more private messages so we could solve their issues without raising hell on our platforms.
“PR people are in search of ‘traction’ amid the noisy and cluttered world of social media.” (Lipschultz, p.111)
We needed content that really caught the attention of our viewers. So, I tasked one of my broadcasters to make a quick video to help families prepare to move to Alaska or face their first winter, but was fun and easy to understand.
Here’s what Senior Airman Slaughter came up with and I hope you enjoy:
Lipschultz, J. H. (2018). Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law and ethics. New York, NY: Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group.