Saturday, November 12, 2011

Defense PR Joins the Real World

At the Capitol Communicators Group lunch last week, I saw a refreshingly frank presentation by Frederick P. Wellman, president of a small PR company called ScoutsComms. Wellman served in Iraq twice and returned to launch a PR company to help the aerospace, defense and veterans' sectors navigate the muddy waters at the end of the decade long defense spend-a-thon.

Wellman discussed General David Petraeus' management style as just go figure it out. He was replaced by General Martin E. Dempsey who operated by asking what's your plan? He has worked for both and learned a great deal in the process.

Wellman discussed how many defense contractors approached their businesses in the gravy train years as don't do anything to rock the boat. But as the budget cuts keep coming, the new defense PR strategy is transitioning into fight as hard as you can for your piece of the pie.

Wellman also described the competitiveness for media attention at a recent trade show. There were over 600 exhibitors and just over 20 reporters to cover all of them. That seemed like pretty good odds to me.

How the Washington Post Covers Defense Contracting

Wellington brought along a Washington Post defense contracting reporter, Marjorie Censer, who quickly explained she is the only one left covering this topic. Censer is working for the Washington Post's weekly magazine Capital Business, and appeared smart and accessible. She offered a few tips about pitching her stories:

Deadlines - Capital Business comes out on Monday and the Washington Business Journal (its major rival), the Friday before. Don't pitch the two of them the same story at once because if the WBJ runs it first, her editors will be very upset.

Sources - Her main sources are analysts who cover defense contractors in our region and she is looking for others. While the analyts are helpful, they are not unbiased. She welcomes input from college and university professors who teach defense policy and other topics within this realm.

Story Pitches Censer says she reads press releases and story pitches, and gave an example of how she'd featured a small company whose release she'd received recently, within a larger story. Product pitches are out unless you can tie them to a bigger trend. Fresh ideas about the battle between Maryland and Virginia for corporate headquarters and jobs are welcome.


  1. There is nor reason why this part of the country should be awash in defense money and the rest of country is in depression hard times. Completely unjustified. I live in a part of the country that gets quite a bit of defense money and is mostly foolishness.

  2. One of the first things I used to teach at the Pentagon in Media Training was to simply understand what the press needs, what their deadlines are and how you can help them do their jobs...and then all of a sudden they will be much easier to work with.