It's the first time that the Army has designed a campaign specifically to recruit officers, said John Myers, deputy director of marketing for the US Army Accessions Command.
“There really is a significant lack of understanding on the part of the American public about what an Army officer is, what their values are, what they're capable of doing,” he said. “If you have a lack of understanding, both in the prospect area as well as influencers, you really need to do something with your communications programs to get that fixed.”
Weber Shandwick, which began working with the Army in 2005 after fellow Interpublic Group firm McCann World Group won a contract in 2005, is providing PR and social media support.
The Army identified key markets like Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, and Miami, along with influencers, whether they are business leaders, coaches, teachers, or community leaders, within those markets to reach out to with information sessions and local media relations, said Eric Pehle, EVP for Weber Shandwick.
“If we can identify community leaders and talk to them, and have a conversation, they absolutely understand the value in having a soldier coming in and running an organization,” he said. “They understand the contributions a solider brings back to the community.”
The campaign plans to use social media to reach out in markets like Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and New Orleans to complement the national media program, which includes outreach to military bloggers. The target audience is male and female prospects, age 16 to 24 years old.
While grassroots efforts and regional events will encourage interest and provide information about officership, the Army hopes to use the Web to provide a pathway for participation.
“Our Web and social media components are going to be the main vehicles to really extricate how you become an officer and what's the best way for you to become an officer,” said Myers.
Messaging, which focuses on the value of becoming an officer, has been incorporated into all of the Army's existing social media channels, said Pehle. New elements like an online Army officer leadership quiz, instant messenger skin with information about being an officer, and new officer bloggers at ArmyStrongStories.com have been introduced, as well.
“I think that people understand what it means to serve in the army but fewer people understood what it meant to be an officer or how you become an officer, so the messaging really had to focus on the value of becoming an officer,” said Pehle. "Social media is playing a much bigger role in how we tell the story.”