Suzanne Ross, Chair, Accreditation Committee
The dazzling military dress blues stacked with bars of operational distinction established Major General Malcolm Frost’s authority on military affairs at an event hosted by the Accreditation Committee at Barbaricom, a military contractor, last week. The event aimed to bring new insights into evolving military public relations outreach efforts and the professionalization of Army public affairs.
The Chief of Army Public Affairs, Frost explained his main public relations challenge: The era of media embedded in military zones is over. As a result, there is a gap in knowledge about modern warfare, defense and security in a changing world.
Frost leads the Army’s advocacy strategy to strengthen awareness and sustain support. He said, “We recognize that our power is in the soldier, and in the confidence of the people and Congress.”
Although the Army benefited from 15 years of investment, respect and appreciation of soldiers in combat, looking to the future, it struggles to compete in attracting top talent. Frost said, “Of the potential recruits, only 29 percent, or about 380,000 young people have the propensity to serve. “ He added, “Better understanding of the Army’s diverse operations, including combat operations, will help us recruit young people.” To bolster effectiveness of outreach, the “Meet your Army” campaign highlights the multi-domain Army with operations in 140 countries, as well as attractive incentives such as educational scholarships.
To improve the civilian public’s connection with Army affairs, the Army identifies influencer audiences and affiliations, and develops messages that resonate with the right people, at the right time. Stepping forward into the audience, Frost explained, that not only has the Army expanded it’s outreach through diverse digital platforms, but also provides a toolkit to Public Affairs Officers. This kit targets diverse audiences associated with geographic areas, enabling officers to build local institutional relationships that can deepen the Army’s connection with their publics.
As Congressional support for military investments in people and services wanes, the Army is persistent in its efforts to build a better “human” connection with policy decision makers. Frost’s strategy accomplishes this by engaging Army leaders of diverse rank, including young recruits, to provide regular briefings to Hill staffers on military operations.
Frost concluded, “We’re learning a lot about what works and we’re telling our story differently to quickly and effectively adapt to changing conditions.”
Accreditation in Military Public Relations (APR+M) is a designation that can help bridge competencies of public relations practitioners in both military and civilian sectors. Currently, the National Capital Chapter represents more APR+Ms than any other, and provides training, mentoring and other accreditation services to recognize and advance public relations professionalism among military personnel.
The event brought together accredited and non-accredited members of diverse organizations, including the National Association of Government Communicators as well as the PRSA National Capital Chapter members of the government and accreditation committees.