Blogging Outreach for the US Army

Well, when you are running a successful blogging initiative in a successful PR firm, companies and organizations are going to come to you for advice, and to lead blogging initiatives. Yes, I am speaking of Hass MS&L and the BlogWorks team. Ha! Bet you thought I meant someone else, but geez, come on, I said successful blogging intitiatives that go beyond blog launches.

From O'Dwyer's, comes the story that the US Army has contracted Hass MS&L's BlogWorks for a blogger outreach program. From the story:
The U.S. Army has hired Manning Selvage & Lee to do outreach to pro-military bloggers, Jud Branam, managing director of Haas MS&L, told O'Dwyer's.

Branam said he could not go into any detail about the work. He would only confirm that the Detroit office was recently hired by the military.

A Haas MS&L e-mail sent to bloggers says the Army is interested in testing a "new outlet for public information." The Army promises "exclusive editorial content" on selected issues.

The blogs are viewed as a way to distribute "good news" about Iraq stories. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes stories about progress in Iraq are largely missing from the mainstream press.

France's Publicis Groupe owns MS&L, which also blogs on behalf of General Motors.
Well, this is an interesting way to go about it, and the full pitch letter to the bloggers can be seen on One Hand Clapping. My only complaint on the pitch letter is that it's way too long for bloggers. Short and sweet and to the point is my new mantra for pitch letters, especially ones to bloggers.

The Washington Post's Early Warning Blog had a different take, though. They think that the Army hiring MS&L is a desperation move, but I have to disagree. MS&L did quick outreach, informing the political bloggers that there is information and access out there, if they are interested. It's about access, which is never a bad thing. It's not like all bloggers work in the Beltway, or for the Post, so it's a way for them to get information and interviews as well, should they so desire.

Now, it also depends on how the Army brass are going to work with bloggers - but I don't think MS&L has that full control of the Army press officers. If the Army is upfront, honest, and doesn't try to spin - but just communicates - I think the program could go well.

As a side note, this is not the first proactive blog campaign undertaken by BlogWorks. Last November, they did blog outreach for Hefty Serve 'N Store plates and bowls. There were a few mis-steps there - bad targetting, bad mail merges - but they learned from that experience, and seem to have done a better job with the Army. Full disclosure, I asked for some of the plates and bowls, and they are pretty neat. :)



  1. Hey Jeremy: Great minds think alike? I posted on the same topic also this morning.

    As usual, you really dig into a topic.

    One thing you and others might want to look at is some of the milbloggers' reactions. I posted one example, and another added a comment. (Self-promo plug warning:

    Like any media/public/blogging relations effort, if the information being fed or distributed does not have value, it won't be published. You made the same point.

    So, while Arkin seemed awfully critical of the U.S. Army -- "buying PR" -- what he and other MSM and even bloggers think doesn't matter. It'll all depend on the value of the "exclusive" content.

    You do need to give the U.S. Army credit for including bloggers as a legit form of "media."
    -- Mike

  2. I caught this item from William Arkin's Washington Post column. Neville and I talked about it on today's edition of "The Hobson and Holtz Report." Must be a lot of great minds out there...

  3. Kudos to Hass itself for landing the account. It's a great story - but one with huge potential lash back as well. I do wonder - and, no, I didn't ask - but if they have a crisis plan in place just in case the tide does turn.

    Hopefully, the Army will listen to counsel and do this the right way.

    Well, Shel, there's at least three great PR minds thus far ...

  4. Thanks for your perspective on this subject as someone apparently "in the business." As one of the bloggers the firm contacted, I'm still not sure what is being offered, but I hope it is along the lines of what you theorize.

    I agree with you that this has a tremendous potential for backfire, as we're already beginning to see with some of the media and bloggers who oppose it. And military folks are by nature highly suspicious of the higher-ups in DC. The Army will have to be impeccably professional and straightforward/transparent in this, or the milbloggers will eat them alive.

  5. Thanks Fuzzibear Lioness. One of the issues with any blog outreach program - whether the milbloggers or consumer bloggers or Mommy bloggers - is the potential for it to backfire.

    Let's hope this isn't one of those cases.

  6. It's interesting how much of the discussion and comments here and elsewhere are focusing on the almost pending failure of the U.S. Army's blogger relations program.

    It's almost as if we have walk on pins and needles for fear of the wrath of bloggers should any of us do anything wrong.

    Yes, I know that, with the ease of blogging, negative word-of-mouth (or fingers) spreads like wildfire. (But, you hardly hear of any positive blog posts and comments spreading to the same degree.)

    That said, like any other media relations program, if the information fed is fluff and BS, it won't get published and the U.S. Army will rightly so be criticized.

    It's just that, when bloggers attack ( people tend to get more cautious and focus too much on the negative potential.
    -- Mike

  7. I'm just jealous I wasn't asked. I probably print more DoD content than most milbloggers.lwtey

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