An iPhone for every PAO (2009)

If I were the Public Affairs King for a day, that is what I would do.

Every Officer, NCO and Soldier working in Public Affairs would get an iPhone. Here are some reasons why:


Reason #1: Imagery. You’re always able to have the ability to get still photos and/or video. 3 megapixels on the iPhone ain’t bad. 5 megapixels on the some of the current Android phones is even better. Yes, we can have a small digital camera in our pocket,  but it will not let you upload your photos/videos instantaneously to Flickr or YouTube. It also beats carrying around multiple devices to include the video camera with all the associated gear which alone takes up a large rucksack.

Reason #2: Audio. We’re always looking for an MP3 recorder for that interview anyway. After you have finished the print interview, throw the audio online and put a link to it at the end of the article.

Reason #3: Geotagging. Your photos can be thrown on a map so that people can know where and when an event took place. It would be very easy to have an interactive map with photos and videos of events at their actual site. A OPSEC Officer’s nightmare, but if properly done, great for the communicators. There are also lots of location-based applications that are quickly becoming the norm.

Reason #4: Real-time video stream. Qik is a live-streaming website for your mobile phone. You can go to the website and watch people filming various events live as it happens. If we had our iPhone, we could do live interviews any time we wanted. By the way, they keep all the clips online so if you don’t happen to see it ‘live’, you can see it at a later date.

Reason #5: Access to online hard drive. Something like box.net. I have lots of professional items on my personal computer, but since I don’t want to lug a MacPro desktop around, or even an external hard drive, it would be nice to access an online hard drive when needed. Maybe even an AKO online drive(?)

Reason #6: Email/Tethering. As a PAO, I would love to work strictly off my AKO email all the time and have a normal, commercial internet line at work. How many times is the network down at your work? They’ve updated patches, they’ve updated this, they’ve changed that, all of which causes your system to go down. Hearing someone scream “The network is down!” or “Outlook is down!” is an every-day occurrence wherever I happen to be stationed. Tethering your phone to your laptop would allow you to have internet access whenever you wanted, either on the phone or on a laptop, and enable us to update posts, Army.mil, your unit website, or any of your social media sites from the field immediately.

Reason#7: Real-time social media interaction. Best Buy has employees working on social media sites on the job answering questions in between customers via BestBuyConnect. Giving hundreds of PAOs the ability to communicate in real-time to people in a variety of networks is a good thing.

Reason #8: Video Conferencing. There are lots of video conferencing sites out there, but check out Wetoku. We can have an interviewee sharing the Army story with any interviewer while sitting in front of the PAOs iPhone.

Reason #9: The PAO application. OK, as long as I’m dreaming,  I might as well dream big. So on this Army issued iPhone is going to be an Army CORE Application that does a couple things. On top of the ability to upload content onto Army.mil, it also has a Vocus-like feature with access to journalists, groups, and individuals that are interested in receiving Army updates on various topics. It would allow us to have one-stop shopping for updating all the Army.mil-related sites (Youtube, Flickr, etc). The application would also have a calendar to give you a heads up on what topics are going to be hot coming up. (i.e., the Army-Navy game is coming up in 2 months, we need commercials by X date).


As far as cost goes, an iPhone is $99 and the average bill is about $70 a month. Over the course of three years you’re talking about only $2619 for each Soldier. Considering the amount of money spent on other things, $2619 over 3 years is a drop in the bucket.

So after we get the iPhone issued to us, the next thing will be the laptop that we carry with us from station to station just like we do our battle rattle…

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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