The Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Manpower and Reserve Affairs oversees personnel- and human resource-related policies and programs that affect 2.1 million United States military service members, their families and approximately 930,000 Department of Defense civilian personnel. The ASD's scope includes the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) — DoD's international school system that serves military-connected youth — as well as the overall quality of life of all military families, which include approximately 1.9 million military children (newborn to 18 years old).
In recognition of the prevalence of bullying nationwide (20.8 percent of students — more than one out of every five — report experiencing bullying), the ASD who developed this PSA, Todd A. Weiler, sought to:
(1) Reinforce his priorities of creating opportunities and removing barriers for everyone in the Total Force — including military youth — through dissemination of anti-bullying messages and resources
(2) Leverage his social media audience to join the national anti-bullying conversation and open a dialogue with his audience about their concerns, feedback and ideas related to bullying prevention and intervention among military youth
(3) Use his relationship with well-known country music performer Jessie Chris — who is very relatable to young people — to share a positive and engaging anti-bullying message with military families and youth worldwide
The development of this video supported several of the ASD's overall enterprise-wide communication objectives, including:
While the primary target audience for this video is military youth, young people comprise a small portion of the ASD's social audience. Therefore, our strategy for this PSA was based on the multi-step flow communication theory and the viral power of social media. By giving the ASD a voice on this topic, we sought to leverage opinion leaders who comprise the ASD's social media audience (e.g., DoD service providers, including DoDEA teachers, parents and other military family-serving organizations), who have direct access to military youth via their organizational and personal social networks. Additionally, Jessie Chris' own social networks represented a key opportunity to enhance message reach beyond the military community into the broader civilian and entertainment-related social networks that military youth follow.
As a political appointee, the ASD faced a potential transition, depending on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. As a result, this project (as with most others we supported during his tenure) had an aggressive development timeline. The ASD sought to make a significant impact in a short amount of time, and social media was a key platform for articulating his priorities and accomplishments. For this particular PSA, from concept to completion, we had less than a month to implement — a timeline that occurred during the 2016 holiday season and just prior to the 2017 political transition. The aggressive timeline for this PSA presented a challenge for our team by providing less (and sometimes zero) time for key steps in our video development process, such as key message development, talent recruitment and storyboarding. While we consider many of these steps key to delivering the most impactful videos, we have grown accustomed to accelerating our timeline for customers and have become adept at identifying where we can shave time without compromising quality. In this case, we did not have adequate time to recruit DoDEA student talent.
We used a streamlined video development process for this project, which included only script development during pre-production. Our client provided the talent and the filming of the video took less than one hour, due to a previously vetted and approved script. We were able to edit in original music from Jessie Chris and provide an intro and outro based on the established organizational branding.
Our implementation strategy leveraged the current conversation and trending hashtags (e.g., #StopBullying365) associated with bullying prevention. We connected our messages promoting the PSA (posted in January 2017) with the messages we had previously shared during Bullying Prevention Month in October 2016. We also built anticipation of the video with several teaser photo posts leading up to the posting of the final PSA.
The PSA had notable reach among the ASD's audience. The video reached more than 7,000 and engaged 195 Facebook users. While we did not establish specific reach and engagement targets for this particular PSA, the reach results indicate we achieved substantive visibility of this PSA and engagement results indicate progress in building the relationship with our audience. If the PSA hadn't featured the ASD (a political appointee), it may have had a longer "shelf life" as part of the ongoing bullying prevention campaign. Because the ASD's time with the organization ended just a week following the posting of the PSA and new government leadership was assigned to manage the M&RA platforms, we were unable to sustain the ASD's personal engagement in the conversation around bullying prevention among military youth on M&RA platforms.
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