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Mark Phillips is a strategic communication leader who helps executives improve their public relations, marketing, and corporate communications. He interviews PR experts who share tips, tricks, lessons, tactics, and strategy to drive powerful communicat
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015 - Strategic Communication lessons from the Marine Corps

Welcome to Better PR Now. This is episode 15 and in this show, I'd like to share with you some strategic communication lessons that I picked up from the commandant of the Marine Corps. This is my first video podcast, so if you're watching on Youtube, I want to give a special shout-out and thanks to Roberto Blake for giving me the push to move from audio to video. I also want to give a shout-out to my transcription partner, If you'd like to see an example of their work, just go to any of the ShowNets pages on They do a fantastic job with really quick turnaround and they're very affordable. If you'd like a 25% discount, go to 

So to set the stage, in Washington D.C. the Marine Barracks Washington is downtown. If you've ever heard of 8th and I, that's Marine Barracks. It's the oldest post of the Corps. As the oldest post of the Corps, they do something very special every Friday evening during the summer called the evening parade. And according to their website, the parade has become a universal symbol of the professionalism, the discipline, and the Espirit de Corps of the United States Marines. The story of the ceremony reflects the story of Marines serving throughout the world. Whether aboard ship, in foreign embassies, at recruit depots, or in divisions, or in the many positions and places where Marines project their image, the individual marine continually tells the story of the Marine Corps. 

So the evening parade, let me paint a picture for you. You pull up and immediately, even though you're on the streets of Washington, D.C. and it's really crowded, lots of traffic. You're immediately met by a group of Marines who are in their full-service dress. The white hat, the blue jacket, the white pants, and they're just exquisite. They've got all their medals and they meet you, they park you, they bring you in, and they're very, very welcoming and professional. I was able to go to a VIP reception that the commandant hosted for about 200 people. He gave remarks and he also introduced the guest of honor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and then there were 3 other congressional members who participated that evening, along with about 24 NCAA coaches. And those two groups are really important. There were many other people there that night. And then typically, after the reception which lasts about an hour and a half, out on the parade deck there are bleachers that hold probably 2,000 people, and they give an hour and fifteen-minute performance where they have Chesty XIV, who is the current mascot of Marine Barracks Washington. He's an English bulldog, he has all of his uniform and decorations on, all of his medals and awards. The silent drill team which is just absolutely astonishing in their precision and the Marine Band also gives a performance including numbers by John Phillip Sousa, one of the most famous Marine Band leaders.

So altogether, it's an evening where you get to experience the Marine Corps on parade, but you also get to engage with both enlisted and officer marines. So during the reception, we had both officers and really junior enlisted marines come up and ask us how we were doing, welcomed us to the Barracks, talked about their role in the Marine Corps. They are very much steeped in their tradition in history and it gives you a very personal welcome and really heartwarming experience, being part of that whole evening. After the performance, the members of the VIP reception were able to take photos with the Commandant and his wife, with the drill team, with the mascot, and with some of the bandsmen. It's a really wonderful evening and lasts a couple hours. 

So here's some strategic communication lessons. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm talking about strategic communication in terms of the stakeholder engagement that affects your organization's ability to survive and thrive. I'm not talking about media relations, I'm not talking about broad public engagement. I'm talking about focusing on those stakeholders who have some kind of really important effect on your organization and its ability to exist and continue to operate. So the lens I would like to share with you, that we'll look at this through, is, and if you're a marketer, you're familiar with AIDA, A-I-D-A, which is an acronym that stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. So if you think about this being a funnel, at the very widest, open part of the funnel is attention. You have to get somebody's attention. Once you've got their attention, you have to create interest in what it is you're doing, your organization has to offer, whether it's a product or a service. Then you have to move them from interest to desire. You want them to, in the case of sales marketing, you want them to buy your product or purchase your service. In the case of the Marine Corps, you probably need to attract recruits, and there are other things that the Corps depends on as well. And finally, once you have that attention leading to interest leading to desire, you want them to take action. 

So in this case, there are three groups of people who are there participating. You have the Congressional members, you have coaches, and you have members of the public. All three of those are important for the future of the Marine Corps. So for the Congressional members, what does the Marine Corps, like every other government organization, rely on from Congress? One of the main things is funding. So that night we had the House Majority Leader and three other members of Congress. Through that process, they have a better understanding of the Marine Corps. They certainly have a positive impression of the professionalism and discipline and the polish of the Marines, and that probably leads them to be predisposed to positively supporting the Marines when they put in their funding request. 

Same thing with the coaches. These are NCAA coaches from a lot of different sports, from, I believe, that night were Division 3 coaches from around the country. Those coaches, whether they are just coaching or they're coaching and they're teaching on campus, are interacting with students and with parents, and they are in a prime position to make recommendations and suggestions for avenues that the students might follow for the rest of their careers. Being able to recommend the United States Marine Corps only serves to drive talented, professional, disciplined, young people to the recruiters. That also helps the Marine Corps because they're always looking for new enlisted and officer recruits, and to have the parents also being exposed to the Marine Corps in this very positive setting, that gives another voice to recommend the Marine Corps as a potential career path for young people. 

If you think about what the Marine Corps is entirely dependent on, they're dependent on recruits and funding. Those are the two big things. So over the course of one summer season, you could have all of the members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that play a major role in determining the funding for all the military services, you could have most of the professional staff members that work on those funding packages, you could have most of the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for Defense also participating. And so if you have just the majority of them coming through over the course of a couple of years, now you've reminded them of who the Marine Corps is, what role they play in national security and national defense, why that investment in the Marine Corps is important. You also have touched thousands and thousands of either potential recruits or influencers of recruits, whether they're parents or teachers or coaches. And so those become positive voices to represent the Marine Corps when young people are trying to making a decision about what path they are going to follow in life. So if you think about this from a marketing perspective, in terms of creating influence and positive impressions and getting these groups of people to help you with your messaging to those who are potential recruits and new members of the Marine Corps or to those who make funding decisions about the Marine Corps's budget, the evening parade throughout the summer is a fantastic way to do it.

So, is that an opportunity that's only open to the Marine Corps? Absolutely not. Every organization could do that. The United States Army does it with their Twilight Tattoos in Washington, both of which, if you are in Washington or come for a visit, make sure that you see one of those events because they're absolutely spectacular. But if you think about it, any organization, whether it's a school or a manufacturing company or a services company, could take an opportunity to create some kind of personal experience, personal engagement with the stakeholders that are most strategically important to your organization.

So for me, that's the takeaway. It's understand who your strategic stakeholders are and why they are so important to you and your organization. Find ways to connect with them that are meaningful and that help to build understanding, and in the AIDA model, they build attention, they create interest, they create desire, and ultimately, they can lead to action that is mutually beneficial for you and your organization and your stakeholders.

So that's the lesson for today. I hope you find it valuable. I really want you to get as much value out of this podcast or video series as possible, and I want to know what you have questions about, so if you have a question about public relations, marketing, organizational communication, drop me a line at If you have a question about this episode or about the field in general, let me know. Also if you want to nominate a guest for the podcast, drop me a line. Again it's I'd love to hear from you, and finally, before we close out, I want to remind you about my transcription partner. They've got a great 25% off deal. Just go to I'll catch you on the next episode. Thanks a lot.

2018-06-02 20:14:41 UTC

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