The Air Force’s Rules of Engagement for Blogging [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on December 30, 2008

Update, January 5, 2008: Captain David Faggard, Chief of Emerging Technology for the U.S. Air Force, sent me an updated version of their chart, whose changes are based on your comments. The chart appears in this article, and you can click on it to download a full-sized PDF version.

You’ve probably seen many articles on companies and organizations saying that they take social media seriously. Here’s one such organization that you might not expect: the United States Air Force. Take a look at the Air Force Blog Assessment chart, reproduced below:

U.S. Air Force's "Web Posting Response Assessment V.2" chart
Click the diagram to download the PDF version (455K).

The “rules of engagement” are quite good. You might find them to be useful for your own blogs, whether personal or corporate.

WebInkNow recently covered the Air Force’s approach to social media, which is far more involved than many companies who only pay lip service to the idea. They’ve assigned someone the role of “Chief of Emerging Technology”, whose job is to develop strategy, policy and plans for the Air Force’s “communicators” and whose mission is to use or build web applications as a means of engaging Airmen and the general public in conversation. The goal is to make every single Airman a communicator.

The Air Force has quite a presence on the web, which includes:

As with the Blog Assessment chart, you might want to use the Air Force’s social media strategy as a model for your own. Check out WebInkNow’s article for more.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anita December 30, 2008 at 7:36 pm

It will be interesting to see how long it takes before one of their own comments on your blog.

2 Rohan Jayasekera December 30, 2008 at 10:02 pm

They forgot to assess their own chart, which is from the Emerging Technology “Divison”.

I wonder whether “Unhappy Customer” includes people who have been bombed or strafed by the USAF.

3 Captain David Faggard December 30, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Thanks for the comments Joey. Sorry about the typos Rohan, obviously we let the working version out a little too soon. We’ll post an updated version. Happy New Year.

4 Mike Abundo December 31, 2008 at 9:12 am

Whoa. The good Captain here is quick. :)

5 Easton Ellsworth December 31, 2008 at 10:55 am

Thanks Joey for posting this. I wonder how many Air Force employees are actually following this. How long has it been around?

6 dave mcclure December 31, 2008 at 11:12 am

wow. not sure which is more impressive: the diagram, or the johnny-on-the-spot comment from Capt. Faggard.

7 Joey deVilla December 31, 2008 at 11:18 am

@Captain Faggard: You’re welcome, Captain, and thanks for dropping by! I think many people would do well borrow some ideas from — if not completely adopt — your Blogging Assessment chart.

8 Joey deVilla December 31, 2008 at 11:24 am

@Mike Abundo and dave mcclure: Yeah, the Captain was quite speedy in his response. I think that’s the way military pilots operate — as Commander Tom “Stinger” Jordan said during the final confrontation in Top Gun (and yes, I know that they were Navy and not Air Force): “Bull shit ten minutes! This thing’ll be over in two minutes! Get on it!”

9 greywulf December 31, 2008 at 11:31 am

Wow. Pretty impressive, and good guidelines for all other folks to blog by too, whether they be services, corporate or individuals.

I like.

10 Alson December 31, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Rohan: No, I believe the US military would consider that “collateral damage”. An unhappy customer would be somebody like me, whose taxes paid for the bombing and strafing despite my vocal opposition.

11 Bloggers Unite December 31, 2008 at 2:43 pm

This interesting…most bloggers in the non-military could give a rat’s ass about accuracy. Remember the Apple leaks that turned out to be false? Real money and real people were hurt there…but was the blogger? No!

Goes to show you many good things do come out of the military.

12 Dan Hammond December 31, 2008 at 4:07 pm

This is actually quite good. Shame about the typos, the fact that not every box has both a yes and a no, and that there are yes boxes circles emerging from boxes that don’t even have a question in them. Or is this just me being pedantic? On second thoughts, don’t answer that question.

13 rick calvert December 31, 2008 at 10:20 pm

if you guys are impressed by the air force blog assessment procedure you should read some from the front Milblogs. They are the only place you will get the truth from a war zone.

14 Harold Shaw January 1, 2009 at 8:50 pm

The military is pushing hard on the Social Media scene… the Coast Guard’s Commandant has facebook and a daily blog that lots of the Coast Guard Admirals do guest blogs. Blogging and social media is a great way for the top to get info out quickly and informally. Then as more service members get brave hear back what is actually going, not just what the chain of command wants to go up the flag pole.

I look forward to the update of the AirForce’s chart without the errors.

Nice find

15 Shaping Youth January 1, 2009 at 9:46 pm

As a former Navy ‘junior’ and a copywriter and editor to boot, I’ll lend the flyboys a hand and point out a few specifics to make the typos a faster fix (and no, Dan, you’re NOT being pedantic) …

Specifically: THREE errors in ONE public flyer, reflects poorly on the thoroughness of the organization’s attention to detail, and prompts avoidable ridicule (jokes about cursory flight checks, for starters!) so I’d add the ‘don’t post until it’s really ready’ rule…

As you can see by my own recent post on Shaping Youth for Veteran’s Day giving accolades to here: one can say that the military foray into social media is going gangbusters and to be applauded…so you can cross our site off any checklist of ‘ragers’ and ‘trolls’ when I offer these quick fix tips, as they’re submitted with sincerity:

1.) As noted, ‘division’ in the headline (typo)
2.) ‘Prominence’ typo under ‘final evaluation’
3.) ‘Nature’ under the ‘rager’ header…

And huge kudos to the Captain for being “on it” and conversational (tonality is key in responses too, n’est ce pas?) Great post, Joey…HNY to all!

Amy Jussel
Founder/Exec. Dir.

16 Gray Rinehart January 1, 2009 at 9:50 pm

As an AF retiree whose last assignment was in the SecAF/CSAF Executive Action Group, I’m pleased to see this even in early draft form. I’m glad to see the USAF using social media to keep folks informed (I even follow AFPAA [Capt Faggard] on Twitter).

I plan to show this to our folks in NCSU’s Industrial Extension Service, and probably to folks in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership as well.

17 Mark Kuznicki January 2, 2009 at 12:46 am

Great tool, thanks for sharing! I’m going to use this as an example for other government agencies to model after the Air Force’s approach here.

18 Joseph Hurtado January 2, 2009 at 12:46 am


This is impressive. The first rule of Public Relations is don’t stand still to negative news, think and react. This puts that rule into a workable framework for the web2.0 world.

We could actually change the title of the chart and make it: Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment. The Rules apply to Twitter postings, Digg, Slashdot, YouTube, Blogs, etc. It’s a very well reasoned approach that Captain Faggard is taking pro-actively.

Let’s hope other organizations follow suite… Happy New Year Joey!


P.S. I found a post to your article in Twitter ; )

19 David Meerman Scott January 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

Capt Faggard is doing amazing stuff. Many thanks for pointing to my original article.


20 Rob Mowery January 2, 2009 at 10:07 am

The Airforce is definitely doing the right thing. I think the fact that they are using mainstream technologies and leveraging platforms that are already built should be a credit to this Capt. and others making the decision. It sure is nice to see time and tax dollars being used more wisely than other DoD endeavors where they are paying huge $ amounts to have custom built/proprietary tech that will be outdated by the time the high priced Defense contractors even come close to completing. The AF folks are on the right path in both implementation and content. I have see a few others like Dept. of State also leading the charge to do things the right way, some examples are and also the contest they are running at
Also there is that has a pretty good following and has more great information on what the smart thinkers in govt are doing.

Integration of these emerging technologies is def. a better use of $$ then building from scratch.

21 raincoaster January 5, 2009 at 2:26 am

Another vote here for “very impressive.”

22 Jim Symcox January 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm

This is a very good template any organisation could take and adapt – without plagary of course!

23 Tony January 5, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I find this to be an interesting contrast with Israli rules of online engagement, via Megaphone, where software distributed among self-selected civilians essentially sends flash traffic at critical articles and polls.

if the user chooses to go to the site, the software then casts a vote automatically, when this is technically feasible

I’m expecting the social web to be taking more of a hit during current and future world conflicts, so props to Air Force for having considerable guidelines.

24 Paul Zimmerli January 6, 2009 at 1:07 pm

“The Air Force has quite a presence on the web, which includes:

The official blog, Air Force Live
A Twitter account
A YouTube page
Widgets and podcasts ”

Yes! But we in the service of the Air Force CANNOT reach the official blog NOR the YouTube page. They’re blocked from our machines!

25 demophilus January 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

WADR, some of you are too quick to praise this. It still needs work.

All soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines take an oath to defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment. They’ve got no business regulating free speech. Letting them set up a program to proselytize or propagandize the American people is a very slippery slope.

PR is still a legitimate activity, as in “fix[ing] the facts”, but the people in uniform have no business molding domestic public opinion. Supporting a war effort, or defense program? Fine. Justifying it? OK. Telling us how to think about it? No way.

There’s a lot to the chart that’s highly questionable. “Notify[ing] HQ” about “trolls” and “ravers”? One would hope “HQ” has better things to do, even if the airman doesn’t.

IMHO, the “Evaluate” box is flawed. Correcting “erroneous facts”? OK, maybe. Classifying US citizens as “misguided”? No. “Rectifying” a “negative experience”? No, no, no. That’s molding opinion, and a very far cry from maintaining jets, or tracking nuclear weapons. Which, BTW, has seen some mistakes recently. Let’s not spread that efficiency to regulating free speech.

As for “Response Considerations”, “Transparency” should be mandatory, not a “consideration”. Uniformed PR personnel have no business waving false flags at the taxpayers.

Seeing as “we, the people” pay for this kind of crap, I think we deserve version 3.0.

And, FTR, I’m really not interested in hearing any USAF backscatter over this. It would show that you’re really, really not very bright. Or at the very least, that your reading comprehension sucks.

26 Jake Bruhl January 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm

demophilus – where do you see that this document suggest that the USAF is somehow “regulating free speech”? What this flow chart actually suggests is that the USAF is interested in dialoguing … engaging in free speech! The idea behind this, as I understand it, is to address what is being written in the blogosphere about the USAF and its subordinate organizations.

27 Xopher January 9, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Came here from Boing Boing, where we’re all very impressed. Even more impressed once I came here and saw that they’d responded to comments. If I weren’t wayyy too old (and way too gay) I’d be tempted to give the AF a try. They sure sound more sensible than where I work now (aside from the gay thing).

I particularly like the Tone box. It’s more or less the equivalent of “be professional” in a corporate context. I read that as “remember to act as an officer and a gentleman in writing on the web, not just in person” (yeah, I know they’re not all officers).

One thing in the current version (someone on BB pointed this out): ‘Timeliness’ usually means “respond fast enough” (a good thing too; waste of time to respond to a blog post from 2005, after all), rather than “take your time,” which I would call “Deliberation.” There’s a dynamic between the two, characterized by the phrase “deliberate haste.”

Again, though, kudos Air Force, especially Captain David! If there were enough like you I’d be proud to be an American again in no time!

28 Xopher January 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm

(Btw I know the actual armed services brass aren’t happy with DADT either, but they’re constrained by the UCMJ, which only Congress can amend—and ridiculous as the UCMJ has become, Congress is too chickenshit to fix it…gosh, might cost them the Log-Stupid vote, without which no politician in America can get elected.)

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