It’s been a little over three years since I took command of Fleet Forces and started this blog. Throughout my tour, this blog has been an important way for me to share my thoughts and solicit feedback on various topics that I believed were important to the Fleet. I’ve learned about many issues of which I’m not sure I would have otherwise discovered, talked with and helped Sailors who needed additional information on certain topics or had experiences that required improvement to our policies and processes, and received a great deal of valuable feedback from readers who cared enough about the Fleet and our Sailors to sit down and type a meaningful response.
Throughout my time blogging, I’ve been very impressed by the hard work many of you in the “blogosphere” put into maintaining your blogs and producing quality content. And while we don’t always agree on our Navy’s “hot topics,” I want you to know that I’ve greatly enjoyed being an active member of this community and contributing to the discussion – whether on your blog or mine. With that said, I want to be clear that this is certainly not goodbye (not yet at least). I have a few more posts that I look forward to sharing over the next few weeks before I sign off for the last time. In the meantime, I want to share a few brief thoughts on blogging with those of you who are considering a blog as an additional way of communicating with your command/staff.
Understand the commitment
First and foremost, make sure you understand the level of commitment involved with posting frequently and following up on comments. We’ve all seen blogs that start with great promise and then quickly fade away because the owner did not fully understand or appreciate the level of commitment required. This blog has required a considerable amount of my time, but it has also been an extremely valuable tool for me (in my current position) and I’ve actually enjoyed every moment I’ve devoted to it.
I believe this blog has been effective because of the meaningful two-way communication I established with my readers. There were quite a few times I was given the good, the bad and the ugly on this blog, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because of the open and honest dialogue, I’ve been able to help many of our Sailors understand and work through some of the more unique problems in our Navy (such as IA deployments). Quite frankly, I had hoped for more two-way dialogue directly from the Fleet, but I understand the many reasons for the reluctance of some to engage. It turns out my readership was an expanding group over time and I looked forward to reaching out to them even if I didn’t usually hear back from them.
There’s nothing wrong with starting a blog simply to transmit information to your people, but I personally believe a blog is most effective when you have an open and active dialog with your readers. But regardless of how you choose to run your blog, I strongly recommend that you never ask for feedback from your readers if you’re not willing to follow-up on the information you receive. There’s no quicker way to lose credibility with your Sailors.
Keep it in perspective
Finally, always remember that the blog is not about you, it’s about your command, your mission and your people. Whether you’re sharing your thoughts on a particular topic to ensure your intent is understood, highlighting the unique capabilities of a unit you recently visited, or soliciting feedback on a particular idea, the focus should always be on the command and the people and how you can help improve mission performance. Because at the end of the day, it’s our Sailors and our Civilian teammates who make our Navy great, and who accomplish the mission, day in and day out.
All the best, JCHjr