Strategic Communications?–Coast Guard Can Do

Strategic Communications? Its a new label for me (sounds a lot like common sense–writing with a purpose–in a new wrapper), but some people in the Coast Guard are apparently we are already doing it.

Another blogger gives props to the First District PIO, ESCANABA (WMEC-907), Cdr. Westfall and his crew and a backhanded slap to the Navy for doing it wrong.

5 thoughts on “Strategic Communications?–Coast Guard Can Do

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  2. When I saw this statement in the above linked article I had to think over Coast Guard history a bit.
    “I love this press release. It covers every single point of strategic communication discussed yesterday, and comes together perfectly in context with the balance of people, material, readiness, and mission. It touches multiple audiences while sharing a narrative that relates to every audience.”

    To me this is just good propaganda. Don’t believe me, read about the USMC’s CAP programs some time. The historical context it that such public communications generally serves one person. It has been this way since the beginning of the service.

    One of the best nineteenth century artists at this type work was Captain Josiah Sturgis, who I recently read on an official Coast Guard website, was responsible for saving hundreds of lives and hundreds of vessels. However, the only proof of this performance are the nineteenth century periodical articles either by Sturgis or about him by friends and associates. I have yet to see on article by one of his officers about him.

    Sturgis was a grandstander and made sure the press heard about it especially after he finally received his promotion to Captain. He was passed over several times. He even tried back stabbing his commanding officer aboard the cutter Jackson. Claiming John Jackson was not a good union man and he, Sturgis should be in command. On period observer noted of Sturgis, ““a small man, rather fond of show and dress, and of boastful speech, who afterwards commanded a revenue cutter, and, I am sure, enjoyed the uniform and gilt buttons.”

    We can t thank Sturgis for his desire to impress people. He commissioned an 1840 painting of the revenue cutter Hamilton by a leading period artist and it resides in Boston today. When he died on board Hamilton in 1850 (the cause has not been determined) he was given a large send off, much larger than Captain Samuel Trevett, who also commanded Hamilton at Boston and who was the last officer who fought at Bunker Hill. Although unsure who paid for it, Sturgis’ grave monument at Cambridge, Mass., was finely done by the renown sculptor R. Ball Hughes. Besides his name in plain lettering, there is a fine carving of the revenue cutter Hamilton.

    The point to all this is that so-called “Strategic Communications” are but propaganda. Well, done propaganda makes all the points whether factual or not. Sturgis knew this as did other officers. Just think, the CGA thinks Hopley Yeaton was the first commissioned officer. That was just just good propaganda.

    • Propaganda is a one-sided argument that will suppress all information to the contrary and misuse information in order to promote the approved story line.

      Strategic Communications includes, in part, engaging audiences through coordinated and truthful communications programs that create, preserve, or strengthen conditions favorable to the advancement of an activity or interest.

      I would argue that most government communication is propaganda today, because it is simply a press release or news article of an approved storyline. I believe both the Navy and Coast Guard should, when discussing operations, coordinate a services information efforts to influence key foreign audiences towards specific objectives. The core mission of the information offices, in my opinion, should align themselves with the core mission of the organization, as opposed to simply being a press service publishing propaganda in competition with major media and independent press services.

      • I disagree. Propaganda has many sides and is loosely characterized in three primary grouping of Black – outright lies, Grey–a combination and White-the truth.

        The Coast Guard in its Haiti operations used the truth that the majority of its ships could not complete their missions because of age related equipment failures and used this to hawk the need for new vessels. It is a very old method and used in the Coast Guard since 1793 when one of its first cutters was replaced. It is the truth but propaganda nonetheless. Coordinating a Service’s information to influence others is exactly what propaganda bureaus do. One of the Coast Guard’s more successful propaganda points was its use of history to support the socialization of its members with so-called ‘core values’ through the Executive Branch’s TQM mandate. Success does not mean it is truthful, but just that is was successful. Look what the world and U. S. press did with TET ’68.

        It is difficult for the Coast Guard to align itself publicly with any ‘core’ mission because it does not have a core mission. This is what makes writing about the Coast Guard so difficult–it is a road of many forks, a hydra-headed organization that usually tries to pack all of its missions into one box. The Coast Guard should be a good blues singer, but is not because it has no real rhythm and misses too many beats.

        Chuck, I don’t have a real job anymore.

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