Using Social Media
Coast Guard develops strategy to engage public,
disseminate information swiftly and accurately
As the Coast Guard’s director of
governmental and public affairs,
Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry
has helped reshape the service’s
social media directives since taking office two years ago. As
technology changes, so too does
the means by which information
is disseminated and exchanged.
Landry calls blogs — a contraction of the term “Web logs” — an
asset because it gives the Coast
Guard an opportunity to communicate with the public beyond the
typical press release.
She said the Coast Guard has to
be online 24/7 because a story
could break at any time and the
service has to be prepared to
answer media questions or notify personnel what is going on. Calling the Internet the “wild, wild West of journalism,” Landry said defining
who to engage with is a daily discussion within the service.
Landry, who previously was the executive officer of the Coast Guard’s marine safety office in Boston, discussed
the service’s use of social media outlets with Assistant Editor John C. Marcario. Excerpts follow.
What is the hardest part about your job?
LANDRY: I think the hardest part is that everybody’s
at a different point in their understanding of the
social technology tools. There are some who are just
naturals at this and there are some who it takes out of
their comfort zone. How do you raise everybody up
to a minimum level of comfort and understanding?
Right now, we are focused on getting everybody oriented to the tools and understanding of the policies
and procedures necessary to make sure they use the
What information is the most difficult to get
out to the public in a timely manner?
LANDRY: I will give you two examples. The first is
when you’re dealing with law enforcement-sensitive
stories, like the issue of semi-submersibles. You’re
dealing with a law enforcement community and you’re
trying to be very respectful of the sensitive information, of taking pictures and providing a story that’s
timely, pressing and useful to the media but, at the
same time, doesn’t compromise the law enforcement
operation. I think that’s probably the most difficult.