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NATO and SSG Salmons

Sunday I leave for Mons, Belgium, for my stint at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The original hope was for me to stay 90 days, which would have been awesome! My seminar docket this fall is pretty full, though, so I was only able to give our friends at NATO two weeks. Pretty stingy of me, eh? I really do wish I could have stayed longer. A lot of my peoples say how awesome Europe is. It will be my first time, so I’m pretty stoked.

Those familiar with the social media educational process (in case you’re lost, there isn’t one–flat joke) knows that you usually start with the basics (ok, maybe there is a quasi formula–start at the beginning and move forward…that works).

Admiral Stavridis, the supreme allied commander, needed someone to visit SHAPE to spin his staff up on as much social media goings on as possible. My friend Navy Captain Buclatin, the public affairs director for the U.S. European Command, floated my name to the admiral’s office. A little while later, wouldn’t you know it, Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Salmons was asked to take point.

Needless to say it is incredibly humbling and I am ecstatic to do my part. We have a few international students who attend DINFOS for the public affairs officer course. The few whom I have talked to are very surprised at how developed our social media program is in the military. Isn’t that nuts? For as much as we/I complain at the lack of progress, relatively speaking, we’re doing pretty good. I’ve even heard similar comments from the Open Government and Innovation conference a few weeks ago–that DoD and some government agencies are maturing their social media campaigns rapidly.

Bully for us, then! It definitely isn’t time to rest, but at least we aren’t as naked in the dark as I sometimes cynically rail about.

The idea will be to teach three groups of NATO staff five classes. Starting with measuring the dimensions of the huge social media beast (101 level), we’ll then move in to how to tackle it–at least how to initially get started. Then, we’ll delve in to how social media campaigns can amplify existing public affairs communications (external comms). Then there will be a class on the potential benefits of social media inside an organization. Finally, we’ll finish it off with a class on blogging–which was specifically requested by our NATO peoples.

That’s a lot of talking, on my part, but I hope to get some good discussions going. There will no doubt be the same range of objections and concerns that plauge us in the states. Where I feel vulnerable is in my total lack of experience in dealing with the NATO bureaucracy. The U.S. is spectacularly infuriating enough. I can at least speak to some of the measures our IT and legal people are taking. Maybe that’s enough–especially when showing case studies and real results. We’ll see.

I’m really not sure what to expect. I know some people have some honest doubts as to how/if PA should use social media–I constantly wonder about things too. Access, legal stipulations, international consequences, adoption rates for other countries, intellectual property, copyright, libel, slander…social media can be very messy. In the states, sometimes I feel like I’m riding a whale, hoping it doesn’t go under. This time, the footing will be even less assured. Fingers crossed!

AT&T wants $120 for international data roaming. Wow, no thanks. I’ll be on via normal means, but the tweets and posts might be a little sparse for the next few days.


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