The U.S. Army operates Fort Hood, one of the largest and most diverse military posts worldwide. Fort Hood, located in Central Texas, is the primary assignment for one out of every 10 active duty soldiers, which equates to more than 46,000 soldiers and their 100,000-plus family members.
Fort Hood experienced a significant crisis event with a shooting incident that killed 13 and injured 32. Within hours, 835 journalist from 80 international news agencies arrived at the Central Texas post to cover the response. Through that initial exposure and with the significant media interest in the legal proceedings that followed, Fort Hood needed a way to effectively manage thousands of media queries and stakeholder questions. Their communication department contacted PIER™ to help manage these elements. Fort Hood realized that PIER™ had the capability to manage and categorize inquiries and streamline the response process, using predetermined messaging and ready-made templates.
The Problems and Alternatives
Having used PIER™ in the past, the system was again considered when Fort Hood’s III Corps commanding general, Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., expressed his intent to host a town hall meeting.
Previously, Fort Hood’s town hall meetings consisted of the commanding officer presenting information to troops on base. This live-audience format meant that thousands of people, many of whom lived off base, or were deployed worldwide, did not have access to pertinent information. The challenge was finding an easy way to reach their 350,000 soldiers, retirees, civilians, contractors and family members all at the same time with a direct response to all of their concerns.
An additional consideration was finding a method to communicate to the 8,000 soldiers deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Other bases hosted town hall meetings using social media tools, such as Facebook. This allowed senior leadership to present key issues and information to a wider audience. Social media also opened up the conversation to virtual two-way communications because stakeholders could post questions and receive responses. This dialogue was managed by the social media administrator who had to first identify a subject matter expert (SME) and then coordinate with him or her to effectively provide responses to Facebook queries. This process delayed the information flow and often, interested stakeholders did not receive answers in a timely, and efficient, manner.
Using social media improved reach and communication opportunities, it also isolated a large demographic of individuals who either were less inclined to use technology or simply lacked Internet access.
Fort Hood considered other methods including televising the town hall meeting, or giving people the opportunity to call in with their questions or concerns. Again, these options limited the demographic to people who had the ability to view the televised broadcast and/or call in on a working phone line.
U.S. Army Fort Hood’s Global Town Hall Meeting