Office of Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks Strategic Communications Support




Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Office of Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks (DEAN)



DEAN was established by the Executive in Charge in October 2018 to support Office of Management and Budget Executive Order M-17-22, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.” Program offices were moved under the DEAN umbrella to leverage the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to advance healthcare delivery, bringing together the best and brightest to proactively solve some of healthcare’s most challenging problems and improve health outcomes for Veterans. DEAN’s mission is to transform healthcare for Veterans and the Nation through innovation, training, research, and partnerships. This work is accomplished through DEAN’s affiliated program offices: the Office of Academic Affiliations, the Office of Research and Development, the Office of Healthcare Learning and Innovation, and the VHA National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships. As a new “umbrella” organization for these organizations, DEAN sought support by the team to develop a new brand and communications infrastructure.



The team’s approach includes began with the development of a strategic plan that focuses on the following six elements: 1) Stakeholders and the communication channels they access, preferred formats, and information sources perceived as trustworthy and credible, and current understanding of the proposed changes; 2) Messages that reinforce the DEAN’s objectives and deliver a clear call to action; 3) Messengers who build trust, increase credibility, and enhance reputation; 4) Media, such as the Talent Management System (TMS), websites, intranet/microsites, TV channel one, social/digital platforms, mobile apps, publications, events/conferences, Congressional hearings, brownbags, and more; 5) Materials, that include presentations, posters, press releases, talking point/speeches, newsletter articles, blogs, fact sheets, learning materials, TMS modules, and frequently asked questions/answers; and 6) Measurement, which includes ongoing monitoring, measurement, and analysis to ensure the education and communication promotes awareness, drives knowledge, and motivates action.



By the end of the first year, the team produced two DEAN virtual town halls and two informal leadership conversations, as well as aided a DEAN senior leadership retreat and a DEAN communications task force. The tangible results of these forums are best measured by the quality of the high-impact, high-visibility deliverables that the team created on behalf of DEAN. For example, out of a recent town hall, a discussion emerged on the numerous ways that DEAN infuses diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the organization. Eventually, this vital information was systematically promulgated in newsletters, speeches, blogs, and an annual report – all artifacts the team created, disseminated, and measured. In fact, DEAN’s Annual Report was awarded a MarComm Platinum Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by marketing and communication professionals. The team’s success continues into option year one with more aggressive campaigns centered on DEAN’s identity as an agent of change as VA positions itself as a learning organization.