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How the Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District uses social media

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This guest post is by Miri Zena McDonald, a strategic communications consultant. She tweets at @miri_orgchange. She attended the Advanced Learning Institute’s Strategic Internal Communications Conference in Chicago.

Sean McBride, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District has shaken communications up a bit and introduced social media into the mix.

McBride said that the key to introducing social media is to find out what affects and is interesting to your audience and then provide that in the form of creative, engaging content that is updated frequently.

The Charleston District, an approximately 200 strong unit of the Army Corps of Engineers, uses Twitter and YouTube  for external purposes. Their Twitter page, @CharlestonCorps, is used to push communications such as:

  • Press releases
  • Job announcements with use of specific hastags to get local citizens to apply for jobs
  • Contracting announcements
  • Requests for bids on contracts
  • Project updates such as ribbon cuttings
  • Photos and announcements from events
  • TV/radio/newspaper appearances

The YouTube page provides the public an inside look into what the Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District does every day. Employees are featured in the videos as well which is helpful for recruiting purposes and engages staff.

The internal social media program is focused on a set of blogs published through Sharepoint. McBride chose Sharepoint for a few reasons:

  • District leadership wanted internal access only; Sharepoint can’t be found on the Internet
  • It was a tool they already has in place and were using for other purposes
  • Requires little set up to get a blog started
  • Allows for different permissions such as read-only, comment capabilities, and administrator rights

McBride focused his blogs on content that would have the most relevance for his audience. The Corps has an Overseas Contingency Operations program that provides employees with an opportunity to volunteer to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan for either 6 months or a year-long term. People want to stay connected to co-workers who choose to go overseas. The Corps would like to increase interest in that program as well. Therefore, the blogs are focused on what life is like for those that deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. The bloggers are encouraged to be honest about the opportunities, as well as the challenges of the assignment.

All Army Corps of Engineer staff can view the blogs but only Charleston District staff member can post comments. The comments have helped the bloggers tailor content for future posts and keep up their spirits.

McBride shared these tips to help make the case for social media with leadership:

  • Show how it will benefit them
  • Share facts and figures
  • Provide success stories
  • Explain that it’s really an extension of what you already do with communications, just another medium
  • Create a short (1-2 pages), common sense official social media policy
  • Host a brown bag lunch for staff to explain what social media is and how it can benefit the organization

Image Credit: enot-poloskun, via iStock Photo