As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Using Social Media Ethically

As I have done before, I digress from the Coast Guard to talk about social media. Being in graduate school, I am doing a lot of research and writing papers. Lately, I am doing research on using social media ethically in public relations and have found some interesting information. This list is by no means all-inclusive but I wanted to boil it all down to some simple, usable guidelines. I would like to hear what you think about these basic principles and if you feel there are other things to consider that I have not included.

An article in Strategic Communications Management pointed me to a great source, the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) in the U.K. The site offers three guiding principles:

1. Integrity - honesty, transparency, full disclosure, and acting with regard to public interest
2. Competence - only discuss topics for which you are qualified
3. Confidentiality – do not disclose confidential or “insider” information of any kind. A general rule of thumb is to not say anything that is not already publicly available.

The CIPR guidelines also point out important legal concerns for using social media including:

1. Intellectual property - obtain permission before using any material protected with a copyright, trademark, or patent including music on a podcast, image on a blog, quoted material from another Web site, and linking to information on another site. Always cite sources and references.
2. Defamation – do not make any oral or written statements that could harm a reputation. Ensure your content is accurate, true, and not harmful to anyone or anything.
3. Invasion of privacy – do not use or disclose personal information without permission.

Additionally, various articles in recent trade publications including PR Week and Public Relations Tactics and The Strategist highlight general tips for using social media including:

*Be honest, legitimate, and transparent
*Create dialogue - get involved in the conversations and they will get involved in yours
*Focus on the message, not the tool - offer a distinct and credible point of view that engages readers
*Make friends - spend time building personal relationships with online contacts
*Don’t go overboard with brand promotion and corporate messaging or people will tune you out
*Use keywords to help improve search results for your site(s)
*Use an informal, conversational writing style

With the rise in online chatter, many organizations are publishing policy on appropriate online behavior to guide employees. Some of the ones I found through a quick online search include Edelman, Hill & Knowlton, Yahoo!, IBM, BBC, Feedster, Plaxo, and Toronto District School Board.

So, what do you think about these tips for using social media? Is there anything else to consider? What do you think about corporations providing guidelines to employees?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Alaska Experiment

As I watch The Alaska Experiment on the Discovery Channel, I reflect back on when I was stationed at an isolated unit in Shoal Cove, Alaska. No, I was not left to my own devices to survive off the land, but it sure did feel like it to a 22 year old. I was at the peak of my legal prime, so to speak, and was eager to explore the boundaries of this great age. However, a LORAN station up in the mountains of southern Alaska is not exactly a place to experience new things socially. I guess if you call living out in the middle of nowhere with the same three or four people on and off for about a year and a half social, then that is your prerogative.

I, on the other hand, wanted more.

Sure, it was great to be able to watch Friends two or three times in different time zones and various languages (thanks to satellite television) but that is only fun for so long. Oh, and yes it was great to have wonderful meals prepared for us by a Coast Guard cook, but once I started to pack on the pounds I realized I was only getting further away from successfully experiencing this wonderful age.

After a while, I found other things to do to pass the time. I started to play cards… uh, with myself. It kept me busy and was sort of fun, but at times I wondered if I might be bordering on multiple personalities (especially when I would jump from side to side acting like I was actually playing another person… whoa!). I guess you do what you have to do to stay busy.

I also taught myself to basket weave, knit, and make jewelry. However, that didn’t go very well when my baskets unraveled themselves, my first pair of mittens could only fit one or maybe two fingers, and nobody (not even my Mom) would wear my jewelry. In some ways, I thank goodness that I was up in the middle of nowhere so nobody could judge the exploration of my creative side. I sure did make a few people laugh though.

It was not all bad, but it was hard for me to focus on the good. I often wished that I would just enjoy all the beauty around me, and not pity the fact that I am 22 years old and wanting to just be with my friends. When I had time, I did head out and explore as much as I safely could. I fell in love with our unit mascot, a three-legged Labrador mix named Coco, who loved to chase deer and bear. We kept bells on her collar so the noise would keep the bears away from her (and from us).

I also found the salmon breeding season fascinating (sure that could have been my age too). Hundreds upon hundreds of salmon desperately swimming up stream to lay their eggs to the point you could just reach out and grab them. It is an amazing sight to see.

Alaska also offered me the opportunity to experience things I probably would not have ever done on my own. Just the way we got to and from work on a weekly basis was a journey. A USCG small boat would take us out to a dock in the middle of nowhere and then we would drive a large truck 20 minutes up the mountain (see the picture on this link). We would have to take all the food and supplies we needed for the seven days. The typical rotation was seven days on and then 5 days off in the quiet and tiny city of Ketchikan.

Not the greatest life for a 22 year old but looking back, it was a great opportunity and a chance to explore the Alaska terrain.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Military Pay

Sure, the military isn’t know for its substantial salary or lucrative bonus packages but I think it gets a far worse rap then it should. The standard military pay charts only show what they call “Basic Pay Rates”. That is base pay without considering all the additional pay and tax benefits like housing allowances (BAH), food allowance (BAS), additional income for dependents (i.e. wife/husband and children), and other potential income including special pay and bonus’.

This site will factor in many of these allowances to calculate actual military pay. According to this site, a single E-3 right out of bootcamp with less than one year in the service would make approximately $36,340.87. If this member were married with one child, he/she would receive approximately $38,082.18. After spending a few years in the service and advancing to the rank of Petty Officer, this same member would make $40,407.04 ($42,997.58 married with one child). Take this up another couple of years and a few promotions and this same member would make approximately $52,027.57 ($54,724.40 married with one child). That sure isn’t bad considering a person making $10/hour, 40 hours per week only makes about $19,200.

Since the Coast Guard is a branch of the military, its members receive the same pay and benefits as the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. For a better understanding of pay specific to the U.S. Coast Guard, check out this site.

So, if you are one of those people who thinks the military doesn't pay well, maybe you will change your mind and realize its not so bad (and actually pretty darn good!).