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Promo for AmericanVETradio

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As part of our class on “Using Social and Digital Media,” we were tasked to produce a video promo for our clients using a service called Animoto. My client, AmericanVETradio, is a new, internet-hosted station that is dedicated to bringing Veterans and military retirees news and information about their Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. It could be boring just listening to informational programming all day long, but it’s not just talk. It’s contemporary music and classic hits mixed with important benefits news and information.

The Animoto platform allowed me to put a slideshow together using photos,text, and music. I couldn’t control the speed with which the photos changed. That’s part of the pre-programmed application. So from that point of view, it has an annoying limitation. For a free application, though, it worked well otherwise. I hope you enjoy my promo for AmericanVETradio and that it entices you to listen. You’ll find it at www.AmericanVETradio.com.

Please click this link to view the AmericanVETradio Promo.

AmericanVetradio promotional video

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A Review of Engage!

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As part of my communications studies, I wanted to learn more about social and digital media. The first book we were assigned was Engage! by Brian Solis. Mr. Solis is considered one of the foremost experts on new media today so it makes sense to start with his book.

Summary: As a social media expert and evangelist, Solis makes a convincing argument that businesses that do not understand, use, and embrace social media will not be as successful as ones that do. Why, you might ask? Solis says it’s because people now have avenues to find and exchange information on their own. We don’t have to rely on what a company or organization pushes to us or the sites they try to persuade us into visiting. We contact friends, relatives, and others we think are experts, to give us opinions, ratings, and reviews. Therefore, organizations must understand whom they are trying to reach, what information they are trying to convey, and the social media tools we, the members of their audience, prefer to use for our information channels.

Engage! gives us the descriptions of the different social and digital media platforms that exist as well as how to effectively use them. The book goes into detail about how to choose the best platforms; how to optimize your content, sites, and tools to get the best results; and engage with your customers and potential customers.

Evaluation: As someone who is pretty uninitiated to the whole New Media realm (I have personal Facebook, Google+, and Twitter accounts and have recently gotten into Flickr), I found the book helpful and comprehensive, but a bit hard to follow at times. When you learn a new concept or way of doing something, you can feel like a linguistic outsider. I had to go back and reread some sections because Solis referred to concepts in later chapters that my mind hadn’t fully wrapped itself around yet on the first read. I also forgot what some acronyms stood for or what his new term meant. The Glossary and Index helped somewhat, but not for many of the acronyms.

This world of new media can also be overwhelming, as illustrated in this graphic that was used a marketing event for a company called Buddy Media.

For those of us not used to social media, this book, like the graphic above, initially made my head swim with all the new terms. It seemed like a completely different language. Like anything new, I’ll eventually “get” it, but it is going to take several trips back to the book before I feel comfortable incorporating much of what Solis advocates.

At times, I also felt like I was being preached at by an evangelist. I understand that social media is a new and necessary way of reaching our audiences. However, some of us have to take baby steps rather than jumping headlong into the deep end of pool. I had a client once who insisted he needed a blog to reach out to his employees and gather feedback from them. Against our recommendations, he got his blog. He posted to it and asked the employees to leave him feedback or ask questions. Being unfamiliar with this new way of interaction, they posted nothing, and he didn’t take it upon himself to write anything else for months. By leaving his blog idle, he lost all credibility.

Practical Application: For my client, Clark Taylor and AmericanVETradio, we have to start small. AmericanVETradio isn’t selling a standard product like a book or an airline trip; it is selling a service, an online radio network dedicated to bringing Veterans news and information in one easy, entertaining package. Clark’s goal is to provide information to American Veterans through a platform of online music and entertainment. Therefore, we‘re going to have to look at Solis’ Five Ws+H+E: Who, What, When, Where, How, and (particularly) To What Extent (Engage! pages 13-15) we want to engage with our audience. We need to understand which tools they are comfortable with that we can manage during our infancy. We want to ensure that what we start we will be able to sustain and build onto logically later.

Clark has talked about starting with a Twitter account and building from there. I think Twitter and Facebook might serve as the easiest and most fruitful paths to start down. With a Twitter feed, we can highlight stories coming up on the air and build a network of followers who can then retweet the updates to others. We can do similar posts on Facebook. I discovered another, somewhat similar, internet radio station, American Veterans Radio, which is slightly more than two years older than we are, but has only been on Facebook since last August. They don’t seem to have anything other than a Facebook account to support their station, and the site doesn’t seem to have a lot of interaction.

Since we won’t have credibility up front, we will be able to use Facebook and Twitter feeds from organizations such as the departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense who will own the information we will be using. For example, the Associated Press is hosting a Twitter chat with the VA on May 30 about Veteran benefits. VA, through its Twitter account, @DeptVetAffairs, is asking people to tweet questions using #APVetChat. AmericanVETradio could do a story about VA benefits and the chat, and then tell people to go to Twitter to tweet their questions. Our Twitter feed could also retweet the info for our followers. Once we have built a core group of followers and have established some credibility, I think we can move toward other new media such as blogs. It all starts with baby steps and confidence. Steve Radick, an innovator in government social media, wrote a blog called “Two Things You Need to be Successful When Using Social Media.” He says you need loads of self-confidence and extreme self-awareness. I think we’re working to develop both.

This Blog is Dedicated to Helping Veterans

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Welcome to AmericanVETnews, a companion blog to the AmericanVETradio internet station. The upfront disclaimer is that I started this blog as part of my graduate coursework. You can find out more about that in the About link.

In 2007, when I became a Veteran, I realized how challenging it could be to try to understand and partake of the benefits I was entitled to. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has more challenges than I want to get into here in this blog post. Suffice it to say that it can be incredibly difficult to navigate the VA system at times, even if it’s just information that you seek. If you have ever wandered around the VA website, you probably understand.

Clark Taylor also understands the information challenges Veterans have because he’s a Vietnam War Veteran and retired federal government employee. He started Soldiers Radio and Television (SRTV) in the early 1980s as a broadcast dissemination tool for the Army. This year, Clark is focusing his expertise on building an internet radio station just for Veterans, AmericanVETradio. At this writing, the station is in its infancy. I would love to help Clark make it as successful as SRTV.

Another disclaimer–I am one of Clark’s former SRTV Soldiers and success stories. I hope this blog helps me show him how much I appreciate his dedication to me when I was a young Soldier and allows me to help my fellow Veterans get the information they need.