Afghanistan: Admiral Wants Poetry, Radio, and Social Media

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afganThe tumultuous sands of Afghanistan are no strangers to conflict. The back and forth between the government and groups like the Taliban continues to be acrimonious and violent. NATO believes that creating better communication between the citizens and the government is key to a solution. As a matter of fact, the strategic communications director for NATO and the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Rear Admiral Greg Smith, believe he has the solution — a three pronged approach using radio, social media, and poetry. That’s right, poetry.

Bob Brewin over at NextGov fills us in on the logic behind it:

Smith said FM radio stations can deliver the programming that villagers want to hear, including poetry, a key component of the area’s Pashtu culture, which dates back 400 years.

Broadcasting poetry to an audience that appreciates verse meets the key requirement of any strategic communications campaign: “Audience-focused communications. You need to meet the audience where they are at,” said Bill Salvan, a reserve Navy public affairs officer and president of Signal Bridge Communications, a public relations firm in Phoenix.

Good content will attract a radio audience hungry for news and information, Smith said. The United States plans to work with businesses and international partners to build networks and stations that reach the entire country.

Additionally, since the insurgents generally use low power FM transmitters to broadcast threats and menacing messages this sort of content will almost certainly be a welcome alternative.

The stance of meeting the audience where they want to interact is an important one, a concept that is central to effective use of social media. The general’s efforts can be seen in that arena as well with the recent launch of the small but growing Twitter and Facebook accounts for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.

Radio, I feel, will have the greater impact right now. Connectivity is not the only issue; the base cost of computers and the education needed to make use of them and the Internet also provide barriers to social media. Of course, as time progresses, the barriers will diminish, especially as smartphones become more prevalent and mobile users more widespread.

Once again, the negligible cost of the receivers and egalitarian nature of radio prove their worth.

Photo courtesy of TKnoxB, used under its Creative Commons license

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