Ashley Burke currently serves as vice president of communications for DynCorp Interantional, where she also serves as the company’s spokesperson.
She leads the company’s internal and external communications efforts, corporate social responsibility programs and volunteer efforts.
The 15-year communications veteran previously served as an executive vice president at Prism Public Affairs and was the communications director at the Entertainment Software Association.
She recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the importance of deploying communications processes as a service provider and some of the changes the company has undergone since she joined in 2010.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you briefly describe your position at DynCorp and you do on a daily basis?
Ashley Burke: My team leads internal and external communications for the entire corporation, more than 25,000 personnel who we have deployed in 36 different countries.
Our team also directs corporate social responsibility and volunteer activities that take place at the company.
Our employees are very actively involved in their communities, so, we’ve been working to harness the great energy that our employees exhibit each day to strengthen the company’s involvement in each of the communities where we have operations.
ExecutiveBiz: DynCorp is an international firm. What are some of the challenges associated with coordinating communications on a global level?
Burke: There are a huge number of challenges in coordinating communications for a company like ours.
When you consider geographically where we’re operating, we’re out there every day supporting defense, development and diplomacy initiatives around the world.
That means that many of our folks are operating in remote or hostile locations that don’t necessarily have ideal communication networks set up.
All of our employees aren’t connected to the Internet at all times. They don’t have e-mail 24/7, so, there are definitely challenges that come with that.
We also have a wonderful range of diversity in the company with personnel from more than 100 different nationalities, but that also presents additional challenges in how we best reach those who speak different languages and operate in very different environments, while trying to create one, unified feeling that we’re all part of the DynCorp International family.
One of the things that’s been important to us in communicating with that diverse group is establishing common shared values that we all feel are important in what we do, and also common expectations for how we treat one another.
We have a social contract here at the company that governs all of our behaviors; it sets the standard for how you should treat others and how you can expect others to treat you. That has done wonders for establishing a positive culture for the company.
Our people are our product. That’s why there’s such an emphasis on communicating around and about our shared corporate culture and values.
If we have people that show strong values, who are on the ground side-by-side with our customer each day showing respect for what they do, showing the importance of working hard, leading with character and delivering results , that’s really one of the most important ways that we can impact and build customer loyalty.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you give us a first-hand overview describing the many changes DynCorp has undergone since you joined in 2010? In addition, what areas have you personally been working to improve or change?
Burke: We’ve had a tremendous amount of change as a company since I joined in 2010.
In July of 2010 we were purchased by Cerberus Capital Management, and moved from a public to a private corporation. We welcomed a new CEO and an almost entirely new leadership team.
The importance of that for my job is that, for any communications program to be effective, the person sitting at the top needs to appreciate the value of providing a seat for communications at the table.
My arrival at the company coincided with the arrival of our new CEO, Steve Gaffney. He took a look at the way we were approaching communications, and he saw the opportunity for improvement.
Prior to 2010 the company’s communications functions were dispersed.
Internal communications was located in HR. Media relations was in strategy and corporate development. So, when Mr. Gaffney came on, he recognized the importance of communications and made it a priority to develop a standalone communications department that allows us to project consistent messaging internally and externally.
It’s been a positive change for all us, and has improved our operations significantly.
ExecutiveBiz: What lessons have you taken from your past experience that have helped you transition into your current executive role?
Burke: Prior to joining DI, I was consulting for a number of government contractors, and had the opportunity to work with a wide range of companies in our industry.
That experience exposed me to the incredible challenges that government contractors face – both in their day-to-day missions for customers around the world, and in their responsibilities to support the efforts of those charged with oversight.
It was a great education on the realities that face our industry today.
ExecutiveBiz: We’ve seen increased amounts of competition around the government contracting industry. With that in mind, would you say proficient communications and coordination are becoming even more important now than ever?
Burke: Absolutely. As a company, we have been dealing with the changes in our industry by looking internally to determine “How can we operate more effectively? How can we take advantage of all of the great strengths that our people bring to DI?”
We have amazing experts all around the world who are helping our customers each day, so we are always working to figure out how we can best feature those accomplishments and how we can let our employees know how valued they are.
We have a responsibility to share the stories of our employees with their colleagues, and then bring those stories on to our customers to highlight the good work that’s being done around the world.
With increased competition, there’s a lot more that can be done to tell that story. Although budgets are tight, we are bringing so much value to our government customers, and so articulating that value has never been more important.