Build support for change while maintaining focus on keeping America safe and secure.
The United States Coast Guard was preparing to conduct something that has never been attempted in its 219-year history. Our nation’s oldest, continuous seagoing service was to undertake the largest organizational change in its history. The nation’s maritime guardian wanted to modernize its business practices and organizational structure to be more responsive to the challenges of a Post-911 environment. It sought to build support for this change among a Coast Guard family comprised of approximately 42,000 Active Duty men and women and more than 7,000 civilian employees, Reservists and Auxiliary volunteers, while keeping them all focused on their number one priority: keeping America safe and secure. The largest hurdle to this was reassuring all employees that the goal was not a workforce reduction or a change in the organization’s 11 key operational missions, core values or guardian ethos.
“Xenophon’s vital support allowed the Coast Guard to leverage an unprecedented level of cutting-edge social media venues and technology to reach the broadest audience possible...”
It was essential to enable those leading the change to engage people across the Coast Guard, communicate clearly about the changes being undertaken, and demonstrate command of the current state and what is required to move the numerous stakeholder communities to the new vision. Xenophon Strategies was challenged to prepare change communications messages for the internal Coast Guard audience focused on the desired end state that developed understanding and acceptance of Modernization Efforts and, ultimately, ownership.
To effectively communicate the message of the Coast Guard’s Modernization Effort to a geographically dispersed workforce with differing levels of access to computers, the first step was to identify preferred communications vehicles to reach the target audience. In order to accomplish this, Xenophon’s three-person team assisted the Coast Guard in designing, conducting and examining the results from a Strategic Communications Assessment Survey, which not only helped determine the proper communications channels, but also provided a baseline for assessing the workforce’s knowledge about Modernization.
With CG Message Traffic, All-Hands presentations, websites, videos and collateral materials identified as preferred communications avenues, Xenophon’s staff, which was embedded with the teams planning the future Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS), the Force Readiness Command (FORCECOM) and the Operations Command (OPCOM), was able to help the Coast Guard better engage its personnel and increase their awareness of the value to the Service and the American public.
With Xenophon’s assistance, DCMS, FORCECOM and OPCOM each developed their own Web sites or blogs, some internal and others external, to share their prospective commands’ messages with the target audiences. Developing these communities enabled the Coast Guard to deliver target messages and begin to overcome a new challenge of a geographically dispersed workforce. During 2009, the Force Readiness Command’s iFORCECOM blog and DCMS’s DCMSlog blog combined to host over 42,000 visits to their external sites, which averaged 13 posts per month, while also providing videos, brochures and other resource information. OPCOM’s internal Web site also hosted news and videos about the proposed Operations Command. Content supported a transition from the legacy organization to the new one.
While helping develop and produce two different videos, which examined Modernization through a Service-wide lens, Xenophon also played a role in producing over 20 other video vignettes with command-specific messaging. With these videos surpassing over 40,000 combined viewings, a wide audience was able to learn about the Coast Guard’s Modernization from a 30,000-foot perspective as well as receiving a more granular view of each of the co-equal new organizations and their future operations.
Xenophon’s team also played a large role in reaching the workforce through written communication received through the Coast Guard’s internal Message System as well as through in-person briefs. In preparing close to 75 ALCOAST messages for widest dissemination amongst the Coast Guard, Xenophon assisted senior management in conveying high-level messages, which in many cases provided detailed information to the workforce about the respective organizational elements. In addition to producing briefs for all three of the Modernization Elements, Xenophon also assisted with the development and management of the FORCECOM Outreach Team (FCOT). This group of five Active Duty members from around the Coast Guard was specially trained to present the Modernization videos, the FORCECOM brief and act as the command’s feedback conduit from the field. In just over eight months, the FCOT has reached a significant number of Coast Guard personnel with in-person presentations.
Using a comprehensive communications program, Xenophon was successful in helping Coast Guard leadership reach its goal of providing its workforce with information on the changes being brought by Modernization. To that end, VADM Jody A. Breckenridge, Commander Pacific Area and Defense Forces West, wrote, “[Xenophon’s] vital support allowed the Coast Guard to leverage an unprecedented level of cutting-edge social media venues and technology to reach the broadest audience possible…[Xenophon’s] support was critical to the success of the effort, as your team expertly supported an enterprise-wide communications campaign to relay the importance of the Coast Guard Modernization to a workforce of over 55,000 members, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, Congress, and our valued industry stakeholders. Specifically, your team developed key communications feedback mechanisms, formulated hundreds of strategic and tactical messages, briefings and informational videos, coordinated external media inquiries and played keyed roles in planning for our landmark modernization unit establishment ceremonies.”
“The last time we worked together, Xenophon helped produce a strategic plan that ultimately transformed a bankrupt technology company with a stock option probe into a successful $2.1 billion acquisition.”