US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, dual-hatted (as per norm) as NATO’s new Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Commander EUCOM, is now officially engaged as such through social media. According to Donna Mills, writing at the American Forces Press Service, “The very day he assumed his post as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe last week, Navy Adm. James Stavridis reached out in a way none of the previous 15 NATO commanders since Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had: he posted a blog.” More, “Stavridis named his new blog, ‘From the Bridge,’ a reference to the two commands’ focus on bridging the Atlantic to link the United States and Europe.”
That last bit’s not exactly accurate. Stavridis didn’t “post a blog”, which suggests he created the blog, and it’s all his, all the time. ‘From the Bridge’ isn’t really a personal blog at all. It’s part of EUCOMversations, which describes itself as “the official blog of United States European Command.” It lists a roster of bloggers, including Capt. Ed Buclatin, Terri Centner, MC2 Dana M. Clark, MG Ken Keen, John Tomassi, VADM Dick Gallagher, Jeffery Marshall, EUCOM guest bloggers, and Stavridis himself.
This is institutional framework blogging, so freedom to post first thoughts and unedited, off the cuff commentary is an issue. There aren’t too many people in a position to censor edit Stavridis, but someone of his rank and position is still unlikely to have 100% latitude in what he communicates publicly (and expect to keep his job). EUCOMversations’ legal notices suggest a pretty controlled media environment, and read more like a set of internally distributed orders than something meant for the public at large. “Your failure to follow these rules,” it notes, “whether listed below or in bulletins posted at various points in the Web site, may result in suspension or termination of your access to the Web site, without notice, in addition to other remedies.” Sounds ominous, given that this is openly viewable content.
Notwithstanding former SACEUR and current National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones’ claims about effective time management, Stavridis is unlikely to have the sort of spare scheduling slots needed to get juiced up as a blogger. It’s also interesting that Stavridis’ blogging is being done primarily through a US vehicle, albeit a controlled one. NATO stratcom, which is subject to the expectations and requirements of 28 member states, is still feeling its way when it comes to social media engagement. Stavridis, as SACEUR, sits at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), which runs Allied Command Operations (ACO), one of NATO’s two strategic commands. It has a blog, too, the “ACO SitRep“, where you can read Stavridis’ cross-posted “From the Bridge” message – posted, apparently, by “Public Affairs Ops”.
Use of persuasive technologies and basic web credibility standards suggest that blog content at least has to appear genuine and straight from the horses’ mouth in order to work. So far: meh… this reads more like blogging as press release than personal engagement.