Department of State PA Conference

By Colonel Franklin Childress, U.S. Africa Command Director of Public Affairs

This past week I had the honor to attend the U.S. Department of State’s Public Affairs Conference held at the State Department in Washington D.C.

It was an exceptional conference led by Under Secretary Judith McHale. I was honored to be the only uniformed military officer at the conference, and I felt blessed to be in the presence of such talented and dedicated Foreign Service officers. The work they do for our country around the world, spending most of their adult lives outside of the United States, is often not appreciated enough by most people living in the United States.

We were briefed on Tuesday and Wednesday in Africa breakout sessions. Then on Thursday and Friday we received cutting edge briefings by senior leaders in Washington on how to connect better with youth, engage with foreign media, partner with science and technology professionals, and conduct innovation projects.

Friday morning was particularly enlightening for me as we heard from a panel of some of the industry’s top civilian media professionals who spoke about how to integrate video into our social media efforts. Another fabulous briefing was by Wendy Clark, the Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing Communications & Capabilities for the Coca-Cola Company. She used her successful marketing strategies to provide tips for us to better communicate with our target audiences.

On Friday afternoon we heard from three political strategists on how to manage messaging for effective communications campaigns. We also heard from Mr. Denis McDonough, of the National Security Council on the perspectives on Global Engagement from the White House point of view.

It was a fabulous week of learning for me personally and professionally. I was able to meet and learn from the wonderful State Department Public Affairs Officers from all over the world, and particularly from Africa. When I pick up the phone to coordinate issues, we know each other and can relate to that voice on the phone because we have personally interacted.

Finally, I want to express my personal and profound thanks to Deputy Assistant Secretary Bruce Wharton and Ms. Lynn Roche for the invitation and hospitality they showed me while I as at the conference. It was a great week and reflects the true whole of government approach to Foreign Policy.

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