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Marketing to the Armed Forces

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Marketing to the Armed Forces

by Linda Carlson

Getting your books into military base exchanges can be challenging, and selling to such end users as military chaplains, psychologists, and family support specialists is often like trying to hit a moving target, because of frequent personnel transfers. However, given the importance of base payrolls for both military and civilian employees, you may well benefit by looking hard at your titles to see whether any of them fit an audience that is overwhelmingly young and adventurous—and often in danger’s path.

“Military Markets Demystified” (April) discussed wholesale book purchases by exchanges and book purchases by military personnel for use in their assignments, and by libraries, schools, child care programs, family support centers, chaplains, and others who provide recreational, educational, and support services. That article also provided an overview of such other potential customers as schools described as “federally impacted” because they serve so many dependents of troops, and social service and educational nonprofits such as the Military Child Education Coalition.

This article provides information about how to create awareness of—and demand for—your books by single troops and those with families, whether or not the books are being sold in the exchanges.

Where the Troops Are

Census figures show that Virginia, Texas, California, Washington, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Florida are the states with the largest active-duty military populations. The states with the highest number of military retirees are Texas, neck and neck with Florida for the most, followed by California, Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, and Tennessee.

In 2009, the military payroll for the Southern California metro area of San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos reached $11.1 billion, surpassing that of the usual leader, the military complex in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News, which reached $10.5 billion that year. Payroll statistics are not always aligned with population totals, because the most recent recruits are enlisted and still at low rank, earning $1,500 to $2,000 a month. In these two metro areas, however, according to 2009 census data at the American FactFinder Web site (factfinder.census.gov), they appear to be in sync with the military population: 79,000-plus in the Norfolk area and almost 88,700 in San Diego County.

If you publish books for single guys, you’re probably interested in which areas have the most troops living in barracks. City-Data.com has a list of the 101 cities with the highest percentage of them. Excluding the locations with military academies, where all students live in dorms, there are high concentrations of on-base troops in Pendleton, CA; North Chicago, IL; Jacksonville and Fort Bragg, NC; Goose Creek, SC; Fort Benning, GA; and Fort Drum, NY. Other bases with large populations in barracks are Kaneohe, HI; Sill, OK; Coronado and Twentynine Palms, CA; Fort Carson, CO; Fort Campbell, KY; and Joint Base Lewis McChord, WA.

More details about which military personnel live where are available. For example, the American FactFinder Web site has statistics for 2000 showing more than 41,000 people, almost all men, living in barracks (2010 numbers weren’t available there at this writing). More recent City-data.com figures show more than 23,000 people, mostly men, living aboard ship or in barracks in the Norfolk metro area.

Base marketing. When you look on the Internet with “military” in your search term, you’ll find many references to base marketing. Often the same firm has different Web sites for slightly different promotional programs. Here are a few of the marketers I found:

Media + Marketing (alloymarketing.com) offers online and on-base promotions.

Fedmarket (fedmarket.com/products/military-buyers.shtml) offers a 21,000-record Military Buyers list, but no information on how frequently it’s updated, and its mailing labels are for position, not by name. Although Fedmarket also offers an email list, the salesperson who contacted me could not provide specifics about its accuracy or about whether either list came with a guarantee of how many contacts would be accurate.

Military.com, a Monster.com company, provided only the following when contacted: “Our advertising and marketing programs drive large scale impact. A $20,000 minimum commitment is required. If you do not currently have a marketing budget, we invite you to post an event or an item for sale in the Free Military Classifieds, oodle.military.com, or post a military discount at no cost in America’s Military Discounts Directory, military.com/discounts/.” To post coupons on this site, you have to register, but that’s free. There is a books category, and when I checked it, many of the offers were for used textbooks and e-books. Images to accompany offers are usually logos, which must be 120 × 30 pixels.

Communities near bases. Yet another option for reaching the troops, their dependents, and those who serve them is promotion in neighborhoods and communities near bases. A ZIP code map can help you search for schools, public libraries, social service agencies, and media adjacent to bases. Libraries may not be able—or willing—to tell you which branches are most popular with military families, but if you contact branch librarians or the library system’s event coordinator to suggest a military-oriented presentation, you’ll probably be steered to the most appropriate branch library.

Check base Web sites for nearby resources and recreational facilities. An online search using a base’s name and the words convenient to can also suggest opportunities. When I tried one for Fairchild Air Force Base, Google.com gave me pages of references to rental housing, hotels, and bed-and-breakfasts, some of which might be willing to distribute flyers about guidebooks or display copies of guidebooks, local histories, and children’s books.

Veterans’ groups. Organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars may welcome your authors as speakers at chapter events or even national conventions.

Retirement and nursing homes for veterans may also provide opportunities. The federal government operates two retirement homes, one in Washington, DC, and the other in Gulfport, MS (www.afrh.gov/afrh). The veterans’ homes in each state are listed at a for-profit Web site, longtermcarelink.net/ref_state_veterans_va_nursing_homes.htm. You can also use the Veterans Administration Web site search engine, va.gov.


National and international media. Although there is an Armed Forces Network for television and radio, mostly for people who are overseas or on Navy ships, it does not accept commercials for products. It also does not produce its own programming, so your best chance for publicity is to get an author on one of the programs usually picked up from a U.S. network. One example: the NPR talk shows. For more information, see myafn.dodmedia.osd.mil and NPR Worldwide on the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services (npr.org/worldwide/afn-euro.html).

National, international, and local print media on and near bases, as well as Web sites, sell ad space, but even the smallest ads in national print publications cost $1,000 to $2,500, so you’ll want to consider costs vs. likely results.

Publications to consider include:

Family magazine, distributed in commissaries and owned by Family Media (familymedia.com/advertising/index.html), claims a circulation of 500,000.

Salute, a bimonthly from the same company, is described as a “leisure-time publication” that provides “a unique mix of music, sports, dating, travel and more” to about 200,000 troops.

Family Media also offers online ads and in-store signs and displays in commissaries (remember: books are not sold in commissaries, which are grocery stores).

Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times are all weeklies published by Military Times Media Group, a Gannett company. They have a combined circulation of about 246,000 and are described as delivering “news and analysis about military careers, pay and benefits” and “active lifestyle features” (militarytimes.com).

Armed Forces Journal (armedforcesjournal.com), published by Gannett’s Armed Forces Journal Media Group, goes to 20,000 officers on at least the middle management level, and to civilian managers in the defense industry.

C4ISR Journal and Training and Simulation Journal are both for professionals and both from the Gannett Armed Forces Journal Media Group. C4ISR is described as the journal of “net-centric warfare”; circulation is about 16,000. TSJ goes to about 18,000 senior managers in the military and in industry who deal with specialized military training, simulation, and modeling.

Stars and Stripes (stripes.com), a newspaper for service members, government civilians, and their families in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific, is described as offering “national and international news, sports and opinion columns.”

Each military branch has magazines; some accept advertising, and a few invite submissions.

Marines, the official Marine Corps publication, is issued seven times a year. It does not accept advertising. See usmc.mil for examples of its feature stories.

Leatherneck and the Marine Corps Gazette are published by the Marine Corps Association (mca-marines.org). In Leatherneck, which has the larger circulation, an inch-high one-column ad is $280.

All Hands Magazine (www.navy.mil/allhands.asp), a Navy publication that does not accept advertising, accepts articles only from those with Defense Media Activity Navy Content Management System accounts. The Navy’s quarterly information technology magazine, Chips (www.chips.navy.mil), also doesn’t run ads.

The Naval Institute Press does accept advertising in its periodicals (usni.org/magazines/advertising). A small ad in Proceedings is about $1,000; a similar ad in Naval History is almost $800. Web site ads are available, too. You can also advertise in the Navy League’s Sea Power (navyleague.org/sea_power), where the cost for a sixth-page ad starts at $2,790.

The Naval War College Press invites submissions for its quarterly, the Naval War College Review (usnwc.edu/Publications/Naval-War-College-Press/Write-For-Us/Manuscripts,-Essays-and-Letters.aspx). It describes its editorial focus as “centered on naval and maritime affairs . . . [and] international, regional, and national security.” Its audience: “flag and general officers, military staffs and ‘operators,’ foreign officers and officials, scholars, policy analysts and practitioners, and defense industry executives.”

Army Magazine, Soldiers, NCO Journal, Airman, Coast Guard, and several Army and Department of Defense professional journals are described at www.army.mil/media/publications. Soldiers has a submission address on its masthead, although it appears to prefer material from troops. NCO Journal has its requirements at https://usasma.bliss.army.mil/NCOJournal/Overall/Your%20NCO%20Journal.pdf. For Airman, use the “Contact us” link for information, www.airmanonline.af.mil.

Publications such as Military Review also accept manuscripts from the public. You’ll find the very detailed submission requirements at usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/index.asp.

Army Medical Department Journal, which has heavily footnoted technical medical articles, has submission requirements at the back of its issues, www.cs.amedd.army.mil/dasqaDocuments.aspx?type=1.

Military Police, which describes its readership as the Army law enforcement and investigation community, has its submission specifications at www.wood.army.mil/mpbulletin/guide.htm.

The Judge Advocate General Corps has JAG Magazine (www.jag.navy.mil/news/jag_mag/jag_magazine.htm), which runs a book review or two (for example, it reviewed The Tipping Point in an early 2011 issue) but no ads.

Requirements for submissions to the annual Coast Guard Magazine are at uscg.mil/mag/submissions.asp. There’s also a magazine for Coast Guard reservists, The Reservist (uscg.mil/reservist/submission.asp).

Air & Space Power Journal (www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/howto1.html) “seeks articles that recommend solutions to current and future challenges facing the U.S. Air Force.” The guidelines continue: “Desired topics include air, space, and cyberspace power technology, doctrine, strategy, organization, theory, and policy. Innovative or controversial ideas that are competently supported and responsibly presented are welcome. Additionally, we’re always looking for papers about leadership, expeditionary air and space operations, and effects-based concepts. We also accept historical articles that examine history for what it suggests about future air, space, and cyberspace warfare.”

General-interest publications oriented to veterans and personnel still on active duty also include:

Military Officer magazine describes its readership as “commissioned and warrant officers, families, and surviving spouses of the seven uniformed services: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration . . . and National Guard and Reserve.” Its total circulation is 353,000; it buys articles from the public and sells ads (moaa.org/pubs_guidelines.htm).

Military Spouse magazine (milspouse.com/contact-us.aspx) also sells ads and accepts freelance pieces.

USAA Magazine—which circulates to people who insure or bank through a private company organized in the 1920s to provide car insurance to military officers—does not accept advertising but does commission freelance pieces (usaa.com; search for “USAA Magazine”).

In addition to these publications, others with a national audience include the alumni magazines of the service academies, which accept advertising. These are:

Shipmates, for alumni of the Naval Academy (usna.com/SSLPage.aspx?pid=539), claims a circulation of 50,000.

West Point Magazine and First Call e-newsletter (westpointaog.org/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=4507) claim about 48,000 U.S. military academy grads among their readers.

Checkpoints is for 30,000 alumni of the Air Force Academy (usafa.org/news-media/checkpoints/index.aspx).

The Bulletin goes to Coast Guard Academy graduates. It has three sections where you may be able to place stories about authors or books: “Featured Alumni,” “My Greatest Success” (written by alumni in their own words), and “In the Service and Beyond,” which deals with topics of importance to alumni that are “instructive, accessible, and entertaining” or describes “situations and circumstances of which alumni should be aware” (cgaalumni.org/s/1043/index.aspx?sid=1043&gid=1&pgid=1141).

Local media. If your books would benefit from promotion in particular localities, note that most bases have newspapers, usually published by private companies on contract and often with content provided by the base public affairs offices.

Army base papers are listed at the official Web site of the U.S. Army (www.army.mil/newspapers). Navy base papers are listed by the DMOZ open directory project (dmoz.org/News/Newspapers/Military_Bases/United_States). You’ll find papers for individual Air Force and Marine bases on the Web sites of the companies that broker advertising for these publications. These include Military Media (militarymedia.com), which also offers direct mail to base housing (no names on its mailers, just “resident”) and couponing.

A base’s own Web site is a valuable resource on several topics, providing contact information for base facilities and at least an overview of nearby facilities such as schools. You can contact the public affairs office at a base and ask who the advertising contact is for its paper, and whether it accepts press releases. Or, referring to a base directory, you can use a search engine to locate its publications.

What you’ll usually discover is that the base newspaper is published by a company that also does newspapers serving the same community, so you can advertise in both to increase awareness of your books. The community paper is far more likely to use press releases about local authors or send reporters to interview them. For example, Sound Publishing, a western Washington company, publishes 56 weekly and biweekly papers. On the Kitsap Peninsula, which has several Navy installations, it issues such community papers as Bremerton Patriot/Central Kitsap Reporter, North Kitsap Herald, and Port Orchard Independent; and on Whidbey Island, home of NAS Whidbey, it issues three papers. Complementing these are the base publications Kitsap Navy News, Northwest Navigator, and Whidbey Crosswind.

Social media. Want to Facebook with Navy chaplains? Or contact the Department of Defense personnel who focus on “recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration” with the LinkedIn group National Resource Directory? Or use Facebook to read the Fort Benning family newsletter? Click through to defense.gov/RegisteredSites/SocialMediaSites.aspx for hundreds of links in each branch of the military.

Blogs. Military.com, the Monster.com company mentioned above, now owns milblogging.com, which calls itself an Internet database of military blogs. Today it lists about 3,000 of them, and you can sort by gender, military branch, country, recently updated, and most popular.

Blogs.com lists what it considers the 10 best military blogs. Many of these report the day-to-day experiences of the deployed.

You can find dozens more blogs by typing military blogs or military wives blogs in your search engine.

Possibly some military bloggers will review your books or host your authors for a blog tour.

Groups and gatherings

Just as when you’re trying to reach potential customers outside the military, professional associations, conferences, conventions, and trade shows offer opportunities to showcase your authors and your titles.

Groups such as the Society of Air Force Pharmacy, Association of Naval Aviation, Military Chaplains Association, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) run events primarily for troops.

If you sell to military trainers, as Doug Canfield at Mountaineers Books does, you may be interested in more general groups such as the Society for Human Resource Management, whose members include both military and civilian employees on bases; and the American Society for Training and Development. Most such associations have national Web sites that will let you zero in on chapters near your office or the location of your authors.

Private companies such as Technology Training Corp. coordinate trade shows that focus on such topics as rotorcraft, military electronic health records, and logistics. Six-foot tables are available for $4,000, and the Web site welcomes proposals from qualified speakers (http://www.ttcus.com/speaking-opportunities.cfm).

And private companies also run military conferences; allconferences.com/Society/Military covers many extremely technical programs but also programs where IBPA members might consider exhibiting. These include the Military Healthcare Convention & Conference, to be held next month.

Building Your Own Campaign

Reading what media companies offer in their on-base sales promotions can help you brainstorm DIY versions. For example, one national company hires military spouses who have commissary access to distribute coupons. Perhaps you can find military spouses who are willing to distribute flyers about your books, or even host author appearances in their homes or at meetings of their on-base chapters of clubs such as Navy Wives Club of America.

These sorts of organizations are listed on base Web sites and at Army Wife Network (armywifenetwork.com/?page_id=46), a site unaffiliated with the military. You can also find many of them with a search on Facebook or on the Internet as a whole.

Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com) is the Independent’s reporter.

More Resources from the DOD

Now we can add new information provided by the Department of Defense Education Activity with its relaunch of the Military K–12 Partners Web site to the information on military contacts mentioned last month in “Military Markets Demystified.”

For publishers who wish to market to the military, the two most valuable sections of militaryk12partners.dodea.edu/index.cfm are the directories of school liaison officers on bases, and the lists of public school districts near bases receiving grants from DoDEA since 2008.

More general information at this site about the needs of military children may help you determine which books to pitch to base and public schools and libraries.



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