Posts Tagged ‘Connie Braesch’

A Midwestern Coastie: Interview with Lt. Connie Braesch

September 11, 2009

Lt. Connie Braesch is a 15+ year member of the United States Coast Guard and a Grady College alum. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, she has been moved all over the country including Maine, Hawaii, Key West, and Alaska. Lt. Braesch will join us via Skype from Washington, D.C. where she is currently working at Coast Guard Headquarters as the Social Media Tactical Officer for Public Affairs. She will pair with Dr. John Tedesco to discuss the role of social media in the government.

When asked about the unique challenges the Coast Guard and the military at-large faces in their use of social media, she responded by saying the biggest challenge, outside of cybersecurity and operational security issues, is “providing the public an easily identifiable official source for information, which can be difficult to find in the decentralized and often puzzling online realm.” Braesch believes that “collaboration, search engine optimization (consistent tagging, identifiable URLs, regular content), and engagement are imperative.” To succeed, she cited it “requires communicators across the entire organization to be on the same page and driving towards the same goals.”

Braesch added that “This is not a simple task given the Coast Guard’s 11 mission areas and worldwide operations where every Guardian is a spokesperson for the service and (in the spirit of the social media tools) members, units and commands are encouraged to freely use social media to engage with the public. That’s a lot of cats to herd.”

Here are a few questions to get to know Lt. Braesch a little better:

Q: What are 3 facts (i.e. accomplishments, projects) about your career not found in your biography?
A: I am not sure these are so much as professional accomplishments as they are memories that I remember most about my career.

1) For three years, in addition to my duties as the Sector Northern New England Command Center Chief, I coordinated and oversaw maritime Presidential security operations for President George W. Bush when he visited the Bush family summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. I am honored to have a picture with his father, President George H. W. Bush, and to have been one of the few people to get a private/autographed photo with George W. Bush.

2) For nearly two years, during my first tour in the Coast Guard as a young 19-year old, I trained Coast Guard Recruits in physical fitness during bootcamp.

3) In my 15 and a half year career, I have relocated ten times and driven across the entire United States from coast-to-coast and corner-to-corner (not sure how best to say that beyond driving from duty station to duty station, I have also driven straight from New Jersey to California, Alaska to Key West (via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry), and Connecticut to Hawaii (well, I didn’t drive to Hawaii 🙂 but I drove to Los Angeles and shipped my car to Hawaii).

Q: If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
A: A Midwesterner’s Coast Guard Career (sure, it’s not very original but that is why I am in the Coast Guard)

Q: What (who) has been the biggest new media influence on your career?
A: I surely wouldn’t have the job I have now if it wasn’t for Dr. Karen Russell, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia. She introduced me to social media and challenged me to learn and adopt the communication tools.

I will never forget one of my first days as a Mass Communication Graduate student… I was a business management undergrad, had not been in school for six years, and had been in the Coast Guard for 13 years when I found myself sitting in Dr. Russell’s Public Relations Foundations class. She started to talk about wikis, blogs, social media, Web 2.0, and many other terms I had never heard before. I even raised my hand and asked how to spell “wiki.” At that point, I knew I had a lot to learn and was in for a wild ride. I spent the next two years focusing on social media and challenging my use and application of the online tools. One of my favorite and most profound classes was Dr. Russell’s Word-of-Mouth Communication – a definite must for any PR student.

Q. What single piece of advice would you give to a PR educator? A PR pro?
I am neither an educator or a pro but I was a student and I am now new to the field of social media. So, my advice for a PR educator is that although I have heard educators say that they do not feel that they should show students how to use online tools, I feel that providing them a simple introduction to the basics will give them the familiarity and confidence to take the next step and the next and the next… The tools can be intimidating, but once you start you realize how simple they are. The anxiety and anticipated technological limitations all slip away.

My advice for a PR pro is that for me, social media communications is all about teamwork. I think it is crucial to make sure social media communicators are either the subject matter experts or they have access to the subject matter experts to do fact checks and bounce ideas around. It also takes a team to collaborate, monitor, track, manage and engage in all the various tools that are used. It isn’t a one-person (or one-office) responsibility.

For more about Lt. Connie Braesch, read her blog My Coast Guard Career or follow her on Twitter @ConnieLea