While civil unrest and protests stretched across the globe in the wake of George Floyd's death in 2020, leaders within the U.S. Air Force refused to sit by and wait for change to occur. They swiftly rose up and demanded it by collectively calling for action.
A call to action (CTA) is a common tactic of persuasive communication intended to elicit a response from the target audience. It gives the audience a reason to make a change. In public affairs, this translates to what you want your audience to feel or how you want them to act or behave. A communication plan aligned with the commander's intent will fail if there is no clearly defined call to action for your stakeholders. For any communication, you must begin with your end goal in mind, which is what change you want to bring about or achieve. Accomplishing your end goal is easier when stakeholders have a set of concrete tasks, they are motivated and able to carry out.
The U.S. Air Force’s call to action did exactly that.
They created a targeted communication plan.
The Air Force's communication plan targeted each of the four parts that comprise a call to action:
They prioritized timeliness.
Commander's intent drives everything in public affairs. In this situation, Air Force leadership wanted to act quickly by putting out statements on racism, establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and holding difficult conversations with their troops.
Message to Airmen. Join CSAF @GenDaveGoldfein and @cmsaf18 in a conversation about race, the Air Force and acknowledging change that we must achieve.U.S. Air Force via Twitter, June 2, 2020
They researched their target audience.
Air Force leaders brought in experts to facilitate difficult discussions with their troops, which helped them better understand their audience and what they would respond to. It also demonstrated that they were truly invested in creating a transformation and not just throwing out talking points.
Explore a timeline of the major steps the U.S. Air Force took to stay on track with their plan, communicate with their audiences and achieve the results they sought.*
Instead of merely talking about a situation, the U.S. Air Force led by example and took immediate action that motivated others to follow suit. This created the change in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors they wanted to see.
They served as a model to emulate when leadership promptly took a firm stand against racial injustice. They issued public statements, established a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, led town hall meetings and brought in experts to speak candidly on tough topics such as grief, race, shame and vulnerability.
Governmental organizations are not known for quick change, but their efforts produced almost immediate and tangible results:
- Increased ROTC scholarship opportunities for minorities
- Revised rules on dress and appearance
- Lengthened shaving waivers most often used by Black Airmen
- Produced a training video on unconscious bias
To really see a difference, everyone—from leadership on down—took a hard stance that ultimately led to fulfilling the commander's intent. They accomplished their mission by inspiring their stakeholders to take action to help change the very culture within the organization.
*Note: Not all events were included in the timeline. This timeline does not reflect that the hard discussions about social injustice or attempts by the USAF and DoD to eliminate non-inclusive language throughout the military are still continuing. The Diversity and Inclusion Board is also still meeting and discussing ongoing issues and ways to expand to meet demands.