Government communication, 1930s style

Cover of magazine The King's Air ForceThere’s lots of changes happening to Government communications right now, not least of which the closure of the Central Office of Information. Quite by chance, I was sorting through some of my Grandfather’s effects and found this issue of The King’s Air Force, published ‘in co-operation with the Air Ministry’.

By my reckoning it pre-dates COI by a few years – this issue is celebrating 20 years of the RAF, which would make it circa 1939. Accordingly, the first page carries a wonderful stiff-upper-lip introduction from the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood, who advises us of ‘the significance of the air in relation to the security of Great Britain and the Empire.’ Wannabe pilots could not have guessed what an understatement that line would become, with the Battle of Britain just 12 months later.

As a piece of historic Government comms, there’s plenty to enjoy. It must have represented cutting-edge ‘customer’ publishing at the time, full of inspirational stories, technical information, but with the requisite spin and editorial-by-committee.

Tone and channels may have changed since 1939, but the need for communications, and the challenge of creating messages for the public are much the same.

Judging by the sticker in the top right corner of the cover, my Grandfather may have forgotten to return this copy to the Fleet Air Arm, where he served. I’m quite glad he forgot.

Tagging tanks and blogging battalions

For the armed forces, security is paramount. When security is breached it can be life threatening.

I have been aware for some time that the Ministry of Defence has taken a very considered approach to the use of social media by personnel. They seem to have accepted that people are using social media, will continue using it regardless, and that their duty of care means they have to accommodate social media, not rule it out.

This doesn’t mean security breaches can be ignored, so with that in mind they created these compelling, sometimes sinister, and occasionally amusing films. Their aim is to raise awareness of the security issues for serving personnel using social media.

I like the fact they don’t focus on any one channel. In fact they manage to highlight a number of social media functions that people may not have even considered as posing a threat.

If the armed forces can tackle use of social media in such a proactive and enlightened way, then surely there is hope for addressing similar issues in other large workforces, such as the NHS perhaps?

Watch the video below and tell me what you think.