|Jen Schwab has been a military kid, a soldier herself, and the spouse left behind to hold down the fort with two small children. She is passionate about the well-being of military families, and lives in the beautiful state of New Hampshire. Her blog is at thewell-keptfort.com.|
Today's guest blog post is from Jen Schwab, blogger, milspouse, military kid, and a former Soldier!
In a National Guard unit, the Family Readiness Group (FRG) newsletter seems to be a deployment anomaly. It springs up when activation orders go out, and trails off as the deployment ends. There’s a natural life cycle to it, but I argue that the FRG newsletter is the best tool during those non-deployment years, to build trust and audience.
What are the major gripes about FRGs? Catty women. Little or no information. Boring. There is usually very little trust in the FRG from “outsiders” – the two-thirds of family members not regularly involved.
If you wait until a deployment year to get people involved, it’s almost too late. So how do you involve people, who don’t want to be involved, and earn their trust for when the smelly stuff hits the fan?
A better, and permanent FRG newsletter.
First of all, it needs to be a permanent feature of your FRG. People value and trust consistency. Monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly – makes no difference. The key is showing that you are dependable.
Narrow your focus to what only you can provide. It does no good to fill up 12 pages if it doesn’t say anything unique or valuable. I can get a recipe anywhere. What I can’t get is the information on when my soldier will be back from Annual Training, and where I can pick him or her up. I can’t Google that. Good quality information will win you fans every time.
Get close to your information source (Commander, 1st Sergeant, etc), and build a working relationship with them. Make sure they call you when they get new information. Anticipate the needs and make it easy for them to use you to communicate with family members.
Use the newsletter to help people form connections, with you and with each other. Invite (don’t beg) people to come and participate. Share news about the members of the unit – people coming, people going, promotions, births, anniversaries, marriages, etc.
Use a professional voice when writing your newsletter. It’s not an arena for your personal gripe session. Be personal, and identify with people, but always be aware of how your joke or witty remark will be received.
Write for your audience, and use a civilian tone. Don’t use unexplained acronyms or military terms, as they can alienate the very people you’re trying to involve.
Remember that the military continues to evolve with society, and your audience is not all military wives. There are plenty of military husbands, as well as many significant others that are just as affected by military life as spouses. Try not to exclude these other groups in your language.
The FRG newsletter is one of the cheapest and best ways to build camaraderie in the off years. These principles will keep you on track for strong, trustworthy communication.
**For an example of what I do, check out this Sample FRG Newsletter.