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Cultivate Year-Round Support for Service Members, Veterans and their Families

By:  Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, PhD and Tracy Freedman, APR+M

Note: If you are serving or are military-connected, please accept our gratitude for your sacrifices, and connect with us to offer information and feedback.

 

November is National Veterans & Military Families Month, a time when many communications professionals wonder: How will I help my organization honor military and veterans this year? The answer: Employ the power of communication to educate and advocate for service members and veterans in your organization and beyond—not just this month, but year-round.

Know the Numbers

Places like the Department of Defense, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pew Research Center and Military Family Research Institute can provide reliable facts to share with your audiences and help determine how your organization can work on behalf of military-connected families. Begin with the basics:

  • 3 million people currently serve on active duty. Of those, and 31 percent are minorities.
  • Also serving: than 1.6 million family members—spouses, children and over-18 dependents—and even more partners and children who are not officially registered with military officials. [1]

Then, drill down to a local level.

  • Florida is home to more than 92,000 active and reserve military members.
  • About 1.4 million of the nation’s 18 million veterans live in Florida.
  • The University of South Florida ranked first in Florida and fourth among all four-year U.S institutions in the 2020 Military Times Best: Colleges. USF also has strong partnerships with local military installations, and support of military members and veterans.

Check your professional resources for industry-specific data, and make sure your numbers are recent—these populations have changed significantly since 9/11.

Tap into Transitions

You already know that 2020 has been a year of enormous job-related, pandemic-induced transition. More than 200,000 servicemembers transition to civilian life each year, most of whom need new employment opportunities. This year they face an uphill battle during a historic pandemic. September’s veteran unemployment rate hit 6.8 percent, up from 6.6 percent in August, yet lower than the 7.8 percent non-veteran rate. [2] This year, employees are managing transitions from traditional to remote work, from full-time to temporary to permanent job loss, and from career to career, with lasting impact on families.

As a communications professional, you can make a difference now by reaching out to this segment of the workforce that may be underrecognized in your organization. Studies show that 28 percent of veterans report their coworkers are unaware of their veteran status.[3] Ask your human resources department for up-to-date numbers on your military-connected employees, and use those numbers in employee communications expressing gratitude and pride. Social support coupled with information can help ease stressors and relieve feelings of isolation.

Some suggestions:

  • Remind your organization of upcoming deadlines, when appropriate. For example, the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit is authorized through December 2020. The program incentivizes organizations that hire veterans and other eligible individuals.
  • Remind your leadership about the benefits of hiring and recognizing military-families.
  • Develop an internal survey to learn more about your organization’s military family members, including spouses, children, parents, siblings, and partners.
  • Interview a military-connected colleague about his or her experiences, and how serving helps them manage 2020’s unique challenges. Post on your company’s LinkedIn page or website. Such stories can offer inspiration and support to all your military-connected audiences.
  • Create a “thank you” video delivered by your CEO or civilian employees. Make sure it includes information to help others inform and advocate for military-connected families.
  • Evaluate, then adjust, your communication plan to include creative resources, recognition, and information about the value service members, veterans and their families bring to the workplace and the community.
  • Deliver year-round meaningful, creative and resource-laden communications and benefits that educate about military and veteran issues. Use an online calendar to help spur ideas and reminders.

Finally, we are here to help. For more information, or to share your story or get involved, contact PRSA Tampa Bay’s Diversity and Inclusion committee chair Kecia Carroll ([email protected]) or members Linda Hughes-Kirchubel ([email protected]) or Tracy Freedman ([email protected]).


Linda Hughes-Kirchubel owns LHK Solutions, a Tampa-based communication consulting firm serving local and national clients. The wife of a retired Army officer and mother of an Air Force sergeant, she previously directed external relations at the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University, where she earned her doctorate in communication.

Tracy Freedman, APR+M, is the deputy lead for Military and Veteran Affairs at Booz Allen Hamilton and the chair of the Tampa Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. She lives in Tampa with her spouse, an active-duty Marine, and two children.

[1] Military Demographics, (2018), Department of Defense.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (March 19, 2020). Employment situation of veterans summary. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieve from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm

[3] Parker, K., Igielnik, R., Barroso, A., Cilluffo, A. (September 9, 2019). The transition to post-military employment. Pew Research Center. Retrieve from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/09/09/the-transition-to-post-military-employment/

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