The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is a national organization looking to engage military members and veterans who are in practice as public relations professionals. I had the opportunity to help with this effort through a moderated panel presentation at their virtual national conference. What struck me was the organizations and associations’ ability to support our military members’ successful transition back to civilian life and also garner some takeaways for this time of year.
During the panel presentation called Navigating Your Communications by Utilizing a Military Mindset, we gathered high-ranking public relations members to share their strategies. Presenters included:
- Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, APR+M, Navy Chief of Information
- Melissa A. Bryant, Deputy Assistant Secretary Office of Public Affairs, Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder, Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, The Pentagon
- Colonel Cathy Wilkinson, U.S. Army Media Relations Director, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, The Pentagon
Several shared their practical experiences.
“When initial reports arrive during a crisis, “The first and most important thing is to have a healthy skepticism” and not inadvertently echo erroneous information to a broader audience, Brown said. “You have to wait and let things develop to get an accurate picture of what happened.”
“Filter out what’s important and what’s not and have a high level of situational awareness,” Ryder said.
Bryant added, “see outside of the dominant groupthink” and ask, “Is this an actual problem that we need to address?
And Brown continued, “be open to listening to different voices.”
But perhaps one of the best points of advice came from Wilkinson when we discussed the way forward in this era of misinformation and disinformation.
“Relationships matter,” she said. “Pick up the phone and call someone. Don’t rely on emails, don’t rely on chat. Meet people in person.” Remember that “words and tone matter.”
As we move through this holiday season and into the New Year, perhaps we can mirror some of these thoughts in our actions. Use healthy skepticism, filter out what’s essential, maintain situational awareness, and build relationships.
Using these assets as part of our own may help us better relate to those around us. After all, isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?
Photo caption: Military and Veterans panelists left to right, Paula Pedene, Moderator; Rear Admiral Charles Brown, Chief of Naval Information; Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, director of public affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force; Colonel Cathy Wilkinson, U.S. Army Media Relations Director, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, the Pentagon; and Melissa A. Bryant, Deputy Assistant Secretary Office of Public Affairs, Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of PRSA.