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Protecting the Protectors: Northrop Grumman Communications

Posted At: April 12, 2013 9:30 P.M.
by Claudia Calhoun

It is apparent in speaking with Sudi Bruni, Matt McQueen and Jim Hart that they have a passion for their work, but why?

“The most satisfying part of my job [at Northrop Grumman] is that our work communicates the capabilities that help protect our country, our war fighters and helps our commanders make more informed decisions,” said Bruni, senior media relations and strategic communications manager.

Bruni, McQueen and Hart are all employed by Northrop Grumman, a global security company that is one of the major competitors in defense contracting. Northrop Grumman provides innovate products and services in the fields of aerospace systems, electronic systems, information systems and technical services. At its core and in the simplest terms, Northrop Grumman is doing one basic thing — protecting America’s troops.

“What we do here keeps the men and women serving in our military all over the world safe,” Hart said. “That’s what our job is all about.”

Seeing eye-to-eye

Hart, sector manager of external affairs for Aerospace Systems, said that one of the challenges in working in the defense industry, however, is the strong opinions that people outside the industry have about what they do and the industry in general.

“People have a strong opinion either way and certainly in our part of dealing with external audience,” Hart said. “Our major issue now is the public debate over unmanned aircraft systems — its privacy issues and potential applications for weather, border patrol and law enforcement. The far left and far right are both very concerned but for completely difference reasons.”

Matt McQueen, sector director of strategic and external communications for Information Systems, also understands the challenge that strong audience opinions can have on communications, and the rumors that can arise from misunderstandings.

“The last thing we want to do is try to fight a war in the press,” McQueen said. “We would spend the time to correct anything that is factually incorrect, but if it is just rumor, we would not.”

Hart also said that it is essential to remember when sharing your views or an opinion is appropriate. Just like with any business, there is information that is acceptable to share and times when you should or should not take a public position on an issue.

Take it down a level

With major sectors like aerospace and information systems that create complicated, intricate products, how does a communications professional bring these ideas and plans down to a level that would resonate with the general public?

“Not being an engineer or program manager, I use myself as a filter to understand things from a layperson’s perspective,” Bruni said. “We have to remind our experts, and ourselves, that even if at times we get lost explaining how things work, our public wants to know how what we do makes a difference to better protect our country or enable better decisions. They want to know what value it brings that isn’t currently being provided.”

Bruni also said that her main goal is to communicate the benefits to the audience, and help make sure that it makes sense to the average person or reporter who will read or hear her words. McQueen offered similar advice by mentioning that the most important rule is to always know your audience.

“We spend loads on time doing backgrounders,” McQueen said. “When we pitch ideas for stories to reporters, something that sounds good to us might not resonate with that particular reporter or audience.”

Always moving forward

In an industry that is continuously evolving in terms of technology and capability, how has Northrop Grumman remained a strong competitor in an industry defined by only a few major players?

“We [Northrop Grumman] have said from the top down to the bottom that it is about performance,” McQueen said. “We don’t have the luxury of being complacent. When working with our customers, we need to understand their needs and continue to perform at a competitive level.”

Bruni also noted that some of the capabilities and programs are advancing partly because of the innovative collaboration of teams. From software to systems engineers, cyber architects, human factor engineers, graphic artists and more, the newest development teams on programs are combining many different disciplines to ensure the solutions are the most advanced, relevant and usable to our war fighters and commanders.

Northrop Grumman’s media relations managers are taking their passion for their work to ensure that America’s protector, our men and women in uniform, are well prepared and protected – from a defense and communications view.

If you would like to read more about Northrop Grumman’s sectors, values or communication efforts, please visit

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