State Department Official Cites Communicators’ Value
By Michael Cody
Defense Information School
FORT MEADE, Md., May 14, 2010 A senior State Department official recognized winners of the Defense Department’s 2010 Communicators of Excellence Awards here today and urged them to continue using their skills in support of national goals.
Communicators of Excellence Awards are presented to winners of the Visual Information Awards Program, which is open to military photographers, videographers and graphic artists; the Thomas Jefferson Awards Program, which is open to print and broadcast journalists across the Defense Department; and the Visual Information Production Awards Program, also sponsored by the Defense Department.
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley -- a retired Air Force officer who has served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs and on the staff of the National Security Council -- spoke to the winners at the Defense Information School, from which he graduated 37 years ago.
At that time, Crowley said, his hometown of Boston had only a handful of radio and television stations and seven daily newspapers. Today, the number of daily newspapers there is down to two – but the number of communications options has increased.
“We can communicate one to one, one to many or many to many,” Crowley said, noting that he is a “tweeter,” someone who broadcasts short messages from his cell phone via Twitter. “We can communicate by video, voice or word, in large files or in 140 characters.”
With virtually unlimited options, he said, the challenge isn’t finding a way to communicate. It’s choosing the right medium and message, and excelling as storytellers.
“The successful communicator will be someone who makes information compelling, yet simple to understand and convenient for the reader, listener and viewer,” Crowley said. Government isn’t necessarily good at that, he acknowledged, and as a result, it’s a role that the award winners and their fellow military communicators must fill.
“That’s why you’re here,” Crowley said. “You’re providing the memorable story, the unforgettable picture, the dramatic video or the artistic sketch, making us stop, pay attention and comprehend.”
If the work is good enough, he said, people who see it or hear it will send links to their friends, contributing to the national effort in the war of ideas.
“Our adversaries have bomb factories and video-production units,” Crowley said. “They are competing for the terrain between two mountains in Afghanistan and for the space between two ears.”
With help from Defense Department communicators, that’s a competition the United States and its allies can win, Crowley said.
“We were successful across the Iron Curtain, and we can be equally successful across the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
The names of the 2010 Communicators of Excellence Awards winners and examples of their work are available at the Defense Information School’s website.