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NWDC/NPS Strategic Comms Collaboration Focuses Warfighting Capability

Visiting professors from NPS and the University of Southern California helped the Navy Warfare Development Command build an organic, aligned communication capability through its Strategic Communication Workshop, Feb. 5-7.

NORFOLK, Va. – Today’s Navy and Marine Corps team is transforming to focus on emerging joint warfighting imperatives, and strategic communication is a vital capability to achieve success. Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) addressed this need, Feb. 5-7, with a strategic communication workshop led by visiting professors from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, Calif.

The Navy’s transformation requires all commands, including NWDC, to continuously self-assess value the organization provides to Navy warfighting while communicating capability and opportunities to stakeholders. NWDC’s self-assessment came in a three-day, team-based Strategic Communication Workshop at the Jean MacArthur Research Center in Norfolk.  

Here, NWDC Commander Rear Adm. John Meier and his leadership team worked with NPS’ Center for Executive Education (CEE), to build and strengthen the internal communication strategy within the command and messaging to their external customers. The teaching team included NPS faculty and partners from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (USC-ASCJ).

In group discussions and exercises, the professors applied the latest research and lessons learned from across the Department of Defense (DOD) and industry. The workshop allowed NWDC to conduct an organizational communication strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. The team also conducted stakeholder analyses to determine ways to build networks that improve connectivity both internal to their command and with key external stakeholders.  

NWDC is an integrator, applying unique capabilities in operational-level concept generation, warfighting development, and cross-domain integration. All of these elements are key to strengthening U.S. Navy warfighting.

“This workshop allowed my team to analyze our communication capabilities and provide a roadmap for strengthening communication as it relates to the successful achievement of our strategic initiatives,” Meier said. “My team is now focused to relate our goals to our stakeholders and to develop communication metrics that track desired effects.”

Through a series of conversations, faculty pushed NWDC members to identify communication inconsistencies and shore up ‘say-do’ gaps. Using that knowledge, they engaged in a message mapping process to find ways to improve communication with their customers.  Finally, they discussed key metrics that measure effectiveness.  Workshop participants walked away with a new way of thinking about strategic communication, models, tools, and process maps that help them better focus their efforts toward Navy warfighting needs.

Chris Raney, war game director, said, “This workshop doubled as an educational series as well as a team-building exercise which improved our overall awareness of strategic communication as a critical lever.  We did some relatively simple exercises in customer mapping that emphasized the importance of themes and messages with a target audience. As we generate war game communications in the future, that map will be validated and used to ensure our message is communicated accurately to achieve desired outcomes.”

Howard Link, publishing manager, said the workshop provided structure for messaging activities, helping each department and line of operation focus on its own audience and department-centric message.

“The workshop aligns the different departments in NWDC in developing a broad message which will be useful in helping the Navy understand the value NWDC brings to improving how we fight,” Link said. “I think customer empathy—understanding how our customers view us—will be the most helpful in creating a message that will resonate with them. We must remember to solicit their feedback and listen to what they tell us so we can adjust our message appropriately.”

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