Marching forward with Forward March

  • Published
  • By Michelle Tapscott
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs

The 452nd Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs team continues to find new ways to spread important information to its Team March members. In addition to several social media accounts, a new podcast series, called Forward March, has been added to the arsenal.

“The new series is a mixed-media, short-format podcast. It’s video and audio from subject matter experts about timely topics,” said 1st Lt Callie Hewitt, 452 AMW Public Affairs officer and Forward March co-creator. “During COVID-19 we are talking to our public health emergency officer. When we have updates about physical training tests, we’re talking to the command chief.

We are getting information straight from the experts and sharing it with our people in an informal and fun format.”

Finding a forward-leaning way of sharing information with Team March, based on average age of military members and demographics of the team as a whole was a tedious process, but one that Hewitt accepted enthusiastically. Through her research, Hewitt found that younger Airmen are more likely to tune into informational platforms that do not involve email.

“We found that they like podcast series, and they’ll logon to YouTube or Spotify or anything like that to listen to their favorite commentator,” Hewitt said.

Based on the metrics she gathered, Hewitt wrote a communications plan and proposal, which she then presented to Maj Perry Covington, 452 AMW PA chief, for review by he and his staff.  After they reviewed it and provided feedback, the process continued.

“I believe the podcast is a good avenue for the younger Airmen. Podcasts are extremely popular right now and many people listen to podcasts more than they do the radio,” said Senior Airman Kekoa Santiago, 452 AMW Public Affairs specialist. “I know for me personally, and my peer group, when we are driving, we’re listening to either the podcasts or music services instead of the radio. So, if we can reach Airmen where they’re at then that’s what we want to be able to do.”

Being a more informal type of platform, podcasts allow Airmen the confidence to ask leadership the questions they might otherwise not ask.

“I think the podcast will enable Airmen to feel more comfortable about speaking out, that they will do so with less fear of getting in trouble or feeling stupid. This is a way to blur the lines between ranks, in a good way, so younger Airmen can feel more at ease talking with leadership,” Santiago said. “We’re asking the questions and discussing the topics that our Airmen are interested in and providing the information in the best ways possible.”

Due to information rapidly changing, finding a more effect way, besides email, to get the messages out quickly is crucial. Not all Team March members have access to a CAC reader at home, so giving them an additional platform to receive important information quickly is the goal.

After only a couple of episodes, Forward March is gaining traction, Hewitt said.

“We’ve gotten some good responses. It’s only been two episodes but at last check almost 800 people have watched or listened in some way. It’s striking a chord with some people who maybe normally wouldn’t have the chance to get this information,” Hewitt said. “One of the reasons we also went with this is because we need tactical things. Traditionally, Air Force Public Affairs does production-level quality videos, which take so much preplanning and recording with even more time for post-production editing and mixing. With this format, we can get information out fast because it only takes four to five hours of editing for a completed podcast.”

The idea of the podcast came toward the end of 2020 during the holiday season. With COVID-19 cases spiking near the end of summer, leadership wanted to get specific public health guidance out to the Team March in preparation for the holidays.

“We saw such a spike in COVID positivity rates around that time. When members were interviewed through the contact tracing process, we learned many of them were unaware of COVID guidance that had been shared through email and other outlets,” Hewitt said.

Some members were getting information from unofficial sources, some conflicting with others and causing confusion.

“There was so much conflicting pieces of information out there that we were worried there would be an even bigger spike going into the holiday season,” Hewitt said. “Creating the podcast was a useful tool to get official information to the masses in a short amount of time.”

For many Team March members, and Californians in general, working from home has become the norm. The Forward March podcast is a great way to disseminate information without having to leave that safety bubble.

“One of the great things about podcasts is that we can create it remotely, in our telework posture, for listeners who need the information but don’t have the access,” Hewitt said. “We are developing it in the same way we want people to consume it, remotely.”

So far, the Forward March podcast is created using CVR Teams remotely and recording the segment. Editing is done in the PA office with the goal of having a new episode to share the Tuesday after the segment is recorded. The podcast platform is easily managed providing the PA team to improve upon each episode.

“We actually use a couple of different tools and our processes aren’t set in stone. We’re always striving to be better,” Hewitt said. “We don’t want to be static. We want to provide dynamic information with quick and easy access.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information sharing is also provided by the 452 AMW PA office on the following platforms: Facebook – TeamMarch or March Air Reserve Base; Twitter @March_ARB; Instagram @TeamMarchARB; YouTube – March Field; 452 AMW SharePoint; Mobile App – 452nd Air Mobility Wing; Public

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