When Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin rings the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on November 7 in a ceremony marking National Veterans and Military Families Month, he will highlight VA’s new “ChooseVA” campaign with videos featuring an Atlas Research manager and his family.
The spotlight may be on Shulkin as he singles out the ChooseVA mission, which includes branding and logo development led by Atlas. But the real star may be Atlas Manager Greg Smallwood, now known as “Greg Hollywood” around the office.
Smallwood has been with Atlas since 2013, where he works closely with VA in its transformation efforts. Smallwood is himself a Veteran after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2005 to 2013 and he served multiple combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom before later managing the medical care programs for 50 combat wounded, ill, or injured Marines.
Atlas Senior Manager Sarah Saxton is leading the Atlas ChooseVA team. She said Smallwood and his family, including his wife and young son and daughter, were outstanding picks for roles in the videos.
“Greg is a shining example of the young generation of Veterans who have come home from the front and have used VA’s services to provide for his young family through GI Benefits like GI Home Loan and the GI Education Bill,” Saxton said.
What speaks to Saxton in the videos, and what she anticipates will resonate with wider audiences, is the sincerity of the people in them.
“These amazing individuals are not actors,” Saxton said. “They are real Veterans and VA employees who are speaking from the heart in completely unscripted ways. They didn’t even require prompts to tell us about the great services that VA provides. They were excited to share their experiences with us!”
ChooseVA is part of Sec. Shulkin’s radical VA modernization initiative, a visionary movement to transform VA and comprehensively improve the delivery of health care to Veterans. ChooseVA will be promoted inside and outside VA with a simple, two-part concept: VA wants Veterans to choose VA for their health care and to establish VA as an employer of choice.
Atlas is leveraging its strategic communications and marketing campaign expertise, intimate familiarity with the people and mission of VA, and creative solutions to speak to both audiences. Internally, that entails infusing and cultivating a sense of family within VA while spurring its more than 378,000 employees’ commitment to individual excellence in their work in building, strengthening, and elevating the quality of VA care.
Externally, Atlas is conveying VA’s commitment to provide high-quality services to our nation’s Veterans; no one knows Veterans like VA and no one has the background, institutional knowledge, depth of services, and track record of caring for Veterans… that VA does?
The ChooseVA campaign deliverables encompasses videos, logos, digital media products, and other internal and external communications materials such as pamphlets, posters, placards, and other items. Atlas Research’s support includes developing, producing, and directing the campaign via digital engagement, visual and audio production, marketing, graphics design, and project management.
It is Veterans like Smallwood who play a critical role in the vision of the ChooseVA campaign, Saxton said.
“We hope it reaches Veterans, particularly young Veterans like Greg and their families to perhaps highlight a VA service that they didn’t know about,” she said. “In addition to the outstanding level of service provided by VA, we hear from the older generation of Veterans that local VAs are more than just hospitals or benefits dispensaries, they are community centers where Veterans, young and old, gather together. That fostered sense of community is a compelling, if not healing reason to visit and one that the younger generation of Veterans may miss if they don’t take a chance on their local VA.”
There’s another aspect of the VA campaign that revolves around Atlas working with VA employees.
“We at Atlas are privileged to work side by side with VA employees tackling their most critical missions, but that sometimes means we feel their frustrations when the important work they do goes unnoticed,” Saxton said. “I hope this campaign says, ‘Hey, we notice you, and so do the Veterans whose lives you make a difference in’ because VA employees are truly the unsung heroes of VA.”