Military and Veterans Panel at ICON 2021 to Focus on Navigating Communications Using a Military Mindset

by | Sep 23, 2021

PRSA, the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community, announced today a keynote panel featuring top military public affairs professionals to be held on October 14 at 1:35 p.m. ET as part of ICON 2021. The panel, moderated by public relations strategist and veteran Paula Pedene, APR, Fellow PRSA, will focus on the importance of crafting clear communication messages – even under the most trying of circumstances – that are intentional, effective and understood.

Panelists include:

  • Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, APR+M, Navy Chief of Information
  • Melissa A. Bryant, Deputy Assistant Secretary Office of Public Affairs, Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder, Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, The Pentagon
  • Colonel Cathy Wilkinson, U.S. Army Media Relations Director, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, The Pentagon

“If anyone knows what hyper-focused communications efforts look like, it’s this group of military and public affairs professionals,” said Michelle Olson, APR, 2021 PRSA Chair. “I’m looking forward to learning from them as they delve into what we can all do to create and implement successful communications strategies using a military mindset.”

Rear Admiral Brown currently serves as Navy Chief of Information and is the first flag officer and senior active-duty public affairs officer accredited in public relations and military communication through PRSA. During more than 20 years as a public affairs officer, Brown has served as the fleet public affairs officer for both the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the U.S. Third Fleet. Other assignments included service as the special assistant (Public Affairs) to the Chief of Naval Operations, the force public affairs officer for U.S. Naval Air Forces, and the aircraft carrier and battle group public affairs officer for USS Constellation (CV 64) Cruiser Destroyer Group One. Brown has also served as deputy public affairs officer for U.S. Fifth Fleet/U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, deputy public affairs officer for Naval Surface Forces, and fleet media officer at U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Bryant has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs since March 2021. In her role, she provides counsel to the VA Secretary and other senior executives, and assists with leading the public affairs team at VA.

Their efforts include developing and routinely updating and communicating the Department’s key messages to various audiences through media relations, public affairs, intergovernmental affairs, outreach, and Veteran engagement. A former Army Captain and Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, her extensive record of public service includes critical roles in both military and civil service as a senior intelligence officer.

As Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, at The Pentagon, Brigadier General Ryder advises the Secretary, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Chief of Space Operations on public affairs matters. He is also responsible for developing and executing global communication processes to build understanding and support for the Air Force and Space Force. He provides guidance and support for nearly 4,500 active duty, Guard, and Reserve Airmen and civilians in their mission to broadcast internal Air Force and Space Force information. He also oversees community and media relations, plans and synchronizes Department of the Air Force communication efforts, and executes security review programs.

Serving as the U.S. Army’s media relations director in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs at The Pentagon, Colonel Wilkinson leads a team that manages the Department of the Army’s media relations program, crisis communication, and proactive policy announcements. She is a veteran public affairs officer with more than 18 years of experience advising commanders and senior leaders at the highest levels of the Army and Defense Department. She has worked on sensitive issues, including U.S. defense policy towards North Korea and China; the DoD healthcare, suicide prevention, and sexual assault prevention and response programs; the mission to defeat ISIS; disaster response; the DoD southwest border support mission; the DoD COVID-19 response mission; and the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee.

Being held October 4-20 as a fully virtual event, ICON 2021 will feature an innovative lineup of keynote speakers, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and more than 60 breakout sessions. Previously announced keynote speakers include entrepreneur, investor, and bestselling author Randi Zuckerberg, award-winning journalist Yamiche Alcindor, and a keynote panel that will explore building trust in a distrustful age, featuring top communications executives from Microsoft Corporation, Phillip Morris International and Pfizer Inc. For additional details and to register, visit the ICON 2021 website.

About PRSA

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community. PRSA is the principal advocate for industry excellence and ethical conduct and provides members lifelong learning opportunities and leading-edge resources to enhance professional connections and support them at every stage of their career. With nearly 30,000 members, PRSA is collectively represented by 110 Chapters and 14 Professional Interest Sections, and on nearly 375 college and university campuses through its student organization, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). For more information, please visit www.prsa.org.

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