FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 13, 2022
Release #2218 Point of Contact—Jeffrey Prater (401) 832-2039
Navy Public Affairs Worldwide Symposium focused on building networks
The 2022 Navy Public Affairs Worldwide Symposium— the first large-scale public affairs professional event since 2015 — was held March 28-30 in Norfolk, Virginia with the goal of connecting the Navy’s military and civilian public affairs workforce. Of the 400-plus people in attendance, 18 public affairs professionals represented Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers Carderock, Crane, Dahlgren, Indian Head, Newport, Panama City and Port Hueneme.
The Navy’s outgoing Chief Information Officer (CHINFO) Rear Adm. Charlie Brown kicked off the symposium by underscoring three main points: alignment, professionalism, and leading the fight.
“We are far past due to get together, share our experiences and strengthen the professional relationships that make our team uniquely effective,” noted Brown in his welcome message.
Rear Adm. (select) Ryan Perry, who will take on the role as the Navy’s next CHINFO, defined public affairs as “telling the truth with a purpose.” He also noted that disinformation is lessened when the truth is out there first.
“The vision is to be the most respected communicators in the world and the mission is to lead effective communication at every echelon of command,” Perry said. “Being able to write opens opportunities.”
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro joined the event virtually and shared how his public affairs officer (PAO) helped him through his best and worst moments. He also asked the audience to communicate the importance of the South China Sea — the commerce flowing through Taiwan, the Navy’s protection of the sea lines of communication, the physical cables on the seabed, freedom of navigation, and how the Navy serves as a first responder for the Department of Defense in that area.
When speaking about the balance needed for discussing capabilities, SECNAV said that public affairs representatives must communicate to compete. In order to get the most from every event, speakers and attendees should be thoughtful and deliberate in their discussions. Selective discussion of future concepts, operations, and capabilities can encourage our partners in industry and help deter potential adversaries. Yet sharing too much detail can allow adversaries to gain a competitive advantage. All communication should demonstrate how the Navy contributes to national defense without revealing information that could adversely affect security.
Also making a virtual appearance was Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday who summarized public affairs as “relationships.” Gilday noted the importance of positive relationships and transparency with the media, adding that both the Navy and the media share a responsibility to the American people; he underscored his point with cautionary tales of mishandling narratives and being held accountable by the media. Gilday also asked for focused messages, powerful visuals, loyalty, honesty, consistency, and credibility.
When asked how do to get the American public interested in the Navy, Gilday replied, “What we do matters!”
Highlights from the symposium include:
- In a session addressing social media disinformation, Dr. Darren Linvill of Clemson University gave examples from Russia and China and noted that the most frequent targets of disinformation are citizens of autocratic nations.
- As the Navy prepares to release a new Social Media Handbook, Rear Adm. Brown referred to social media as a conversation and warned against hiding or deleting social media posts. He also advised public affairs professionals to have tolerance and to take risk.
- Conversations about equity and inclusion featured Chair for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Dr. Felicia Blow of Hampton University who advised the audience to “learn the diversity language.” She also shared the PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit.
- Breakout sessions focused on career development; more than 500 coded “1035 series” public affairs specialists work for the Navy.
- Public affairs representatives from Naval Forces Europe, Naval Forces Africa, and Indo-Pacific Command agreed that providing advice on media literacy is part of the job. Public affairs professionals needs to know the landscape and be skeptical of the news.
- At the symposium, the Thompson-Ravitz and Navy Media Award results were released. Both Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane and Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport won in the long-form audio category. NSWC Crane took first-place honors for the inaugural episode of its “Four Score” podcast series, part of the celebration of the command’s 80th anniversary. NUWC Division Newport took second place for an episode of the Tangents podcast series featuring Rear Adm. Huan Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American promoted to the rank of rear admiral, in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
- A representative from Gallup shared data on recent polls indicating that social media is viewed for entertainment purposes as the Navy continues to reach its audience through traditional media including newspapers, radio, TV, and direct mail. Gallup data showed that 19% of people ages 18-24 are likely to consider the Navy for a career versus 24% for the Air Force.
- Charlene Li, author and expert in digital disruption and leadership, presented “Leading in Disruptive Times” and shared her views of disruption as an opportunity for change. “The magic is not going to happen when you are in your comfort zone,” Li said. Leadership, she asserted, is about relationships and the need to belong.
“The Symposium strengthened our PA connections and networking and significantly enhanced our comradery and our ability to work as One Team,” Division Newport PAO Jeff Prater said.
Dr. Sandore Zehr, director of Congressional and Public Affairs at NSWC Crane Division, agreed.
“There is as much value in the chance to interact face-to-face with my One Team Warfare Center colleagues as there is with the symposium content,” Zehr said. “As a One Team group, we were intentional about sharing our notes and reflections from the excellent line-up of speakers including SECNAV and CNO. I came away profoundly impressed with the level of dedication, skill, and professionalism among my colleagues within the NAVSEA Warfare Center 103 Community.”
Alan Black, director, NSWC Dahlgren’s Corporate Communications, echoed those remarks: “It’s important to come together as a community, not only for the networking aspect and collaboration, but also to meet new people and share common experiences with our peers, the only way to do that is in person and the symposium gave us a great opportunity that we have not had since 2015.”
For Monica McCoy, visual information (VI) specialist at NSWC Carderock, the biggest takeaway from the symposium was the power of VI.
“Every single talk touched on how important compelling visuals are to getting the Navy’s message out,” McCoy said. “It’s important for the VI side of our team to be part of this discussion and hear how important their role is from senior leadership.”
For Katherine Mapp, PAO at NSWC Panama City, this year’s symposium was the first she attended since joining the Navy public affairs team.
“The speakers we met and the relationships built with other Navy public affairs professionals and our Warfare Center One Team are invaluable to strengthening partnerships across the globe,” Mapp said.
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.
Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site- https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/Career-Opportunities/ and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.