Social media to the defence department: After eight years, the Army changes the communication method

 23. 07. 2019      category: Army of the Czech Republic

The Czech Ministry of Defence, by extension the army, have been communicating on social media for eight and a half years. In this respect, it belongs among to pioneers of Czech government agencies. No matter if it is about a range, intensity or openness of communication. The army now wants to speak to a wide range of population groups - shortly, with impact, clearly. But media experts recommend it to return to the serious tone.

The defence department began to use social media in the winter of 2011. It has begun operation of official channels on Facebook (Army, MoD, Activer Reserve), YouTube and Flickr. It also created, although has not been using it intensively, a Twitter account (this platform was in the Czech Republic a domain for only tens of thousands of users, mainly journalists and intellectuals). On the contrary, Facebook is now being used by the half of the Czech population (it means by all except the children and older persons).

The Army’s Facebook has 120 thous. fans/followers, so it is the most important communication channel of the Czech Armed Forces. Its administrators publish at least one post a day, alternate links to articles, photos and videos. From the very beginning, there is a rule that the administrators briskly react to all comments and questions. But that’s what can be crazy hard however, when any cause has been discussed for already several months, such as now the purchase of new infantry fighting vehicles.

Video: “Urgent” notification of the Chief of General Staff about the purchase of new IFV / YouTube

The Czech Defence talks about this issue in a separate article. We just want to emphasize that during the last three years of preparation of the biggest tender in the history of the Czech Army, the requirements for the IFV were fundamentally changed. So, the professional and mainstream media have been discussing whether it was caused by re-evaluation of the needs of the army or by the arming lobby. No matter if it is so or not, the General Staff has reacted by a massive communication campaign exactly in social networks. 

There were a series of articles and posts. They begin on Facebook with addressing in the second person, and - as usual - it is followed by an appeal. The Army also adds a hashtag “We are army, we know what we want”. This campaign was underscored by a video in which the Chief of General Staff speaks to the citizens. It was announced as a “big important announcement”, what in the first moments waken exaggerated expectations or anxiety. This announcement - in the end - is pure: “We need new IFVs.” Most of all, it emotionalizes and brings no new arguments.

army na fb
Picture: One from the very informal articles of the Czech Army in the “new style” on Facebook. "Now seriously! The Army needs to modernize our strongest military unit. For that, we must have a new infantry fighting vehicle. We know how it’s expensive. That’s why we sought to explain the last week how we thought and which requirements were specified…"  | print screen from FB

Media experts don’t match whether this new method of communication is beneficial or not. First of all, critics point to the fact that it is a “pub-style” that the Prime Minister Andrej Babiš usually uses.  His posts usually begin with a salutation of “Hi people,” while the predominant part of the citizens would prefer a salutation of “Dear citizens.” (It was not the only reason why quarter of million people recently demonstrated against him).

At least the half of its history, the social media of the Czech Defence felt primarily like insiders, no matter if soldiers, reservists and veterans, or interesting public - military community. This hard core of fans and followers accustomed to sophisticated discusses of tactics, outfit and armament. They therefore perceive this new style of communication as too vague.

It is however the benefit which some media experts praise. They like that the army finally communicate in the direction of the general public, thus to non-specialists who unaware which calibres are in their arms but like that “the army knows what it wants.” But only time will show who’s right. The Defence department already a few times demonstrated that is can stratify, so in the future it may divide its communication channels on the media networks to satisfy both unprofessionals and insiders.

 Author: Patrik Beran