Digital Media and Recruiting: An Air Force Case Study
Fly, fight, win. That is the mission of the United States Air Force in air, space and cyberspace. The U.S. Air Force is the world’s preeminent force and maintains that distinction by upholding its objective of global vigilance, reach and power and remaining true to its vision statement: The World’s Greatest Air Force – Powered by Airmen, Fueled by Innovation. The USAF boasts that “through shared values, key capabilities and upholding our Airman’s Creed, we continue to achieve our mission and aim high in all we do.” Recruiting is a vital part of the overall mission. According to Kevin Johnston, a writer for the Rutgers University MBA Program, “an effective recruitment and selection process reduces turnover. These processes match up the right person with the right job skills. Interviews and background checks ensure that you employ a candidate who is reliable and carries out the objectives you planned for providing quality services and goods to your customers” (2017).
Through voluntary recruiting, the United States is able to maintain its armed forces, and without the use of conscription. Driving this goal is a “growing recognition that the [Air Force] is…stretched too thin” (Losey, 2016). Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has stated that her top priorities are crucial career fields that are heavily tapped – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, maintenance, and battlefield airmen. A great majority of recruits are youth between the ages of 18 and 24. However, since the early 1980s, a decline can be seen in this demographic regarding their interest in serving their country. Thus, in the growing digital age, a chief objective has been to increase the Air Force’s presence in digital media to reach prime candidates.
Several strategies are employed to incite enlistment into the Armed Forces. Most recently, over the past decade certain digital resources have been used to increase membership. Among these capitals are the following:
Mobile Marketing [“Do Something Amazing” Campaign] – “Promotional activity designed for delivery to cell phones, smart phones and other handheld devices, usually as a component of a multi-channel campaign” (Rouse, 2009).
Branded Web Series [“The Circuit”] – A series of scripted or non-scripted video episodes that is “released over time in order to tell a story” (Moreau, 2016) on the Internet.
Websites [The U.S. Air Force Website] – “A set of pages of information on the internet about a particular subject, published by a single person or organization” (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Public Service Announcements (PSA) – A message that is broadcast to the general public by mass media free of any costs, with the objective of raising awareness, changing public attitudes and behavior towards a social issue.
"DO SOMETHING AMAZING" CAMPAIGN
The GSD&M’s “Do Something Amazing” campaign for the United States Air Force moved ahead of the trend in 2007 by setting up Bluetooth transmitters in areas around the tracks and stadiums of their tour. The transmitters “ping any mobile device set up to accept messages sent via Bluetooth, sending consumers invitations to stop by the tour and ‘check out what it’s like to do something amazing’” (Capps, 2007). The realization that 81% of the Air Force’s target audience uses cellphones is what led the Omnicon Group agency to apply this tactic. Event marketing is a great way to reach people but Mr. Travis Scoggins, the Air Force’s account supervisor at GSD&M explains how digital media eliminates the gap between generations of future airmen: “…there’s a lag time between when we engage with them at the tour and when they get home and explore on their computer…[with mobile marketing] they immediately walk away with a video they like, a ringtone they heard, a wallpaper they thought was cool.”
THE U.S. AIR FORCE WEBSITE
Another project that GSD&M was tasked to assist with, led by MediaMonks, was the redesigning of the U.S. Air Force’s website. The goal in this venture was to “create a smarter, richer experience that helped potential recruits find the information they were looking for while meeting the Air Force’s deliverables” (Lyonnais, 2016). On a very complex level, MediaMonks began looking at user behaviors and used the data to analyze the user’s aspirations. They then incorporated this information into how the site would react in return to the user’s input.
The five-part web series, “The Circuit” was launched on March 26, 2009 to help the Air Force meet its fiscal goal of 32,000 new enlistments, up from 27,000 the year prior. In order to reach its intended audience, the series was aired on a variety of online destinations favored by tech-savvy youths such as YouTube, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo Technology, and even “Star Trek” fan sites.
Ms. Amanda Bottger, an account manager at the Air Force’s ad agency accurately stated that “there’s this misconception that the Air Force is just about pilots…[the campaign is designed to attract highly skilled tech-tinkerers – people who are hands-on, minds-on”. She also added that “we want to build awareness, but ultimately we want people to become [recruitable] leads” (2009).
The account executive at the Air Force Recruiting Services overseeing the “Circuit” campaign, Mr. Jim Askins, told the service branch that the series would be seeded like advertisement across Digital Broadcasting Group’s network, reaching 8 million viewers. 85% of the $14 million budget was spent online as “75% of 18- to 24-year olds are members of online social networks” (Brodesser-Akner, 2009), data pulled from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This was done purposefully to find faultless contenders, considering that the Air Force rejects fully 70% of those moved to try to enlist.
SUCCESS FACTORS/ANALYSIS & CONCLUSION
Several factors lead to successful recruiting in the Air Force in correlation with digital media: authenticity, commitment at the top, education, accountability, communication, resources, alignment, etc. However, only two factors are measurable in respects to the topic: accession numbers and retainability numbers. Data from each fiscal year starting in 2010 until 2014 was analyzed and the results are as follows:
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the Air Force’s goal was 28,360 individuals. This goal was exceeded with 28,493 (100.5%).
In FY 2011, the Air Force’s goal was 28,515 individuals. This goal was met with 28,518 (100.0%).
In FY 2012, the Air Force’s goal was 29,037 individuals. This goal was met with exactly 29,037 (100.0%).
In FY 2013, the Air Force’s goal was 26,275 individuals. This goal was met with exactly 26,275 (100.0%).
In FY 2014, the Air Force’s goal was 24,068 individuals. This goal was met with 24,070 (100%).
* The Air Force’s most important retention categories are Zone A (17 months to under 6 years of service), Zone B (six years of service to under 10 years of service), and Zone C (10 years of service to under fourteen years of service).
In FY 2010, the Air Force’s goal for Zone A was 17,052 individuals; the actual number retained was 15,827 (92.8%). The goal for Zone B was 10,030; the actual number retained was 10,715 (106.8%). The goal for Zone C was 9,102; the actual number retained was 8,959 (98.4%).
In FY 2011, the Air Force’s goal for Zone A was 14,602 individuals; the actual number retained was 15,368 (105.2%). The goal for Zone B was 9,791; the actual number retained was 10,340 (105.6%). The goal for Zone C was 8,959; the actual number retained was 8,591 (95.9%).
In FY 2012, the Air Force’s goal for Zone A was 15,927 individuals; the actual number retained was 18,071 (113.5%). The goal for Zone B was 9,543; the actual number retained was 10,948 (114.7%). The goal for Zone C was 8,315; the actual number was 8,761 (105.4%).
In FY 2013, the Air Force’s goal for Zone A was 16,791 individuals; the actual number retained was 15,980 (95.2%). The goal for Zone B was 11,482; the actual number retained was 11,298 (98.4%). The goal for Zone C was 8,954; the actual number retained was 8,985 (100.4%).
In FY 2014, the Air Force’s goal for Zone A was 12,771 individuals; the actual number retained was 16,402 (128.4%). The goal for Zone B was 9,493; the actual number retained was 10,244 (107.9%). The goal for Zone C was 6,629; the actual number retained was 9,269 (139.8%).
As seen above, recruiting and retention goals were achieved and exceeded for the most part, with FY 2010 experiencing the highest accession rate of 100.5%; FY 2014 the highest retention rate in Zone A of 128.4%; FY2012 the highest retention rate in Zone B of 114.7%; and FY2014 the highest retention rate in Zone C of 139.8%.
Brodesser-Akner, C. (2009, March 26). Air Force Takes Aim at Higher Recruiting Goal With Web Series. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/madisonvine-news/air-force-aims-higher-recruiting-goal-web-series/135540/
Cambridge University Press. (2017). Website. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/website
Capps, B. (2007, April 10). Air Force Turns to Mobile Marketing to Up Recruitment: Puts Career Information in Pocket of Tech-Savvy Crowd. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/digital/air-force-turns-mobile-marketing-recruitment/116009/
Johnston, K. (2017). Importance of Effective Recruitment & Selection. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-effective-recruitment-selection-55782.html
Kapp, L. (2012). Recruiting and Retention:An Overview of FY2010 and FY2011 Results for Active and Reserve Component Enlisted Personnel. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.
Kapp, L. (2013). Recruiting and Retention:An Overview of FY2011 and FY2012 Results for Active and Reserve Component Enlisted Personnel. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.
Kapp, L. (2015). Recruiting and Retention:An Overview of FY2013 and FY2014 Results for Active and Reserve Component Enlisted Personnel. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.
Losey, S. (2016, March 15). Now hiring: USAF needs to rebuild the ranks to keep up with demands. Retrieved from https://www.airforcetimes.com/articles/now-hiring-usaf-needs-to-rebuild-the-ranks-to-keep-up-with-demands
Lyonnais, S. (2016, March 11). Case Study: How the U.S. Air Force Is Changing Recruiting Through UX. Retrieved from https://blogs.adobe.com/creativecloud/case-study-how-the-u-s-air-force-is-changing-recruiting-through-ux/
Moreau, E. (2016, October 20). What Is A Web Series?: An Introduction to the Online Video Show Trend. Retrieved from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-a-web-series-3486070
Rouse, M. (2009, October). Mobile Marketing. Retrieved from http://searchmobilecomputing.techtarget.com/definition/mobile-marketing