DC Influencer: B.J. Talley, Exelis

B.J. Talley, corporate comms director at Exelis, discusses how to create effective communications strategies in a challenging defense environment.

B.J. Talley, corporate comms director at Exelis, discusses how to create effective communications strategies in a challenging defense environment.

How does Exelis communicate its core messages to various stakeholder groups?
Our approach is to align all of our communications efforts - paid, owned, earned, and social and traditional media - and tailor them to each group.

One way we've implemented this strategy is our executive speakers bureau platform, a bench of thought leaders with a defined point of view across topics related to our business.

Using this platform, we were able to strategically identify and proactively engage with media and key industry events. We then leveraged other channels such as owned and social to amplify our messages and reach stakeholder groups in multiple ways.

We identify the right mix of proactive storytelling opportunities and weave Exelis messages into channels our stakeholders prefer most.

What recent initiatives has Exelis developed? How does it measure the outcomes?
Earlier this year, we centered all our communications efforts on two major initiatives. The Growth & Value Transformation plan focused on being more efficient internally and required staff outreach and training to secure buy-in.

Another was our new strategic plan, which aligned our core capabilities with market opportunities less impacted by US government budget reductions.

We measure external results using an interactive monthly dashboard to capture our share of voice against a peer set, social media interaction, core message pull-through, and online traffic sources that drive visits to our website.

What are some of the challenges for communications within the aerospace and defense sector, and how is communications evolving to address these challenges?
This sector can present unique challenges given the sensitive policies and security-driven natures of the industry. Translating often technical and, sometimes, sensitive information to a wide range of audiences requires looking beyond traditional PR tactics to best convey key messages.

We do this well by developing visually compelling content to describe not only the technologies we build, but also the broader message behind the technology about filling the gap to meet our customers' unique needs.

Using these visuals across all channels and at key industry events gives stakeholders the opportunity to easily digest the most relevant information.

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