|Addressing commanders’ perceptions
of public affairs with existing communication theories is useful for framing
the issue and guiding the research methodology. For this Capstone
project, the researchers will examine commander’s perceptions using three
theoretical perspectives: uses and gratifications theory, value expectancy
theory and leader-member exchange theory. In addition, elements of
the communication apprehension principle will be applied to all three of
these theories to better define the competing influences that shape a commanders'
views of public affairs. Examining these influences from these theoretical
perspectives may help explain what makes each influence more or less important
than another. The theories will also prove useful in future research
studies that seek to develop strategies to address those influences.
Uses and Gratifications
Uses and gratifications
theory, first advanced in the 1940s by Lazarsfeld and Stanton (1944), attempts
to explain the reasons people use mass media and the different types of
gratification they receive from it. Gratifications, simply stated,
are rewards or satisfactions obtained by the individual. The theory
relies on the belief that the audience is not merely a group of passive
media consumers, but that they play an active role in selecting different
media to meet their needs (Infante, Rancer & Womack, 1997; Lowery &
De Fleur, 1983). The theory came into prominence in the late 1950s
and early 1960s at a time when researchers realized that traditional effects
theories did not adequately explain audience experiences with mass media
(Blumler, 1979; Swanson, 1979).
Rubin (1986) stated
two underlying presumptions of the uses and gratifications model.
First researchers need to understand audience needs and motives for using
mass media in order to comprehend the effects of the media. Second,
understanding audience consumption patterns will enhance understanding
of media effects.
Rubin (1979) identified
six major uses of television for children and adolescents: learning, passing
time or habit, companionship, escape, arousal, and relaxation. In
a separate study, Rubin (1983) found five reasons that adults use television:
passing time, information, entertainment, companionship, and escape.
Rubin (1984) also identified in a subsequent study two types of television
viewers – ritualized and instrumental. Ritualized users are frequent
TV viewers who use television mainly as a diversion. Instrumental
users usually have a specific purpose in mind when they watch TV and often
use it for information purposes.
Levy and Windahl (1984)
refine the idea of a “totally active audience” (p. 73), and suggest different
members of an audience will display different types and amounts of activity
in different communication settings and at different times in the communication
sequence. They identified three types of audience activity people
engage in when using the mass media: pre-activity (behaviors taken in the
selection of mass media content); duractivity (psychological attentiveness
and personal involvement in the experience); and post-activity (behaviors
taken after the experience, such as discussion or reflection). These
activities obviously varied in degree from person to person. Levy
and Windahl (1984) found that overall, the public is more or less active
and relatively self aware and knowledgeable about the media’s ability to
gratify certain social and psychological needs.
Garramone (1984) writes
that audience motivation is a mediating factor in information processing.
The reasons a person uses various media affect their attention to various
aspects of the media presentation, including the channel and the content.
Uses and gratifications
has come under some criticism from a number of researchers. There
is debate over whether uses and gratifications is a general theory of communication
or a framework comprised of several theories. Swanson (1979) argues
that viewing U & G as a framework of theories leads to conceptual ambiguities
and inconsistencies, while Blumler (1979) and Windahl (1981) suggest U
& G is best approached as an umbrella concept encompassing several
theories. Infante et al. (1997) point out that most of U & G
research relies on self-report questionnaires, which some critics question
in terms of reliability and validity.
Becker (1979) points to
the difficulty in defining and measuring “gratification.” Because
gratification is audience- rather than researcher-oriented, operationalization
becomes a thorny issue. Becker (1979) does point out however that
gratifications do not seem to be media-specific. That is, a person
who seeks a particular type of gratification from one medium will likely
do the same for another medium. Rubin (1986) believes U & G research
will be best served by continuing to explore and explain the specific links
among attitudes, motives, behavior, and communication effects.
Looking at communication
apprehension within the U & G perspective is useful in understanding
why person may avoid using a particular communication strategy. The
principle of communication apprehension simply states that people are more
likely to avoid communication situations that result in fear or anxiety
for the communicator. Within communication apprehension is a category
called reticence, which is a trait attributed to people who are habitually
silent or uncommunicative. Burgoon and Hale (1983) refer to this
in the “Unwillingness to Communicate” model. This model is composed
of two dimensions: an approach-avoidance dimension, which measures the
chance of an individual seeking out face-to-face interactions; and a reward
dimension, which measures the degree to which an individual finds interaction
with others as unprofitable. A reticent person is unlikely to actively
"use" particular forms of communication or derive gratifications from those
Similarly, Miller (1987)
advances several ideas concerning the anxiety and fear associated with
oral communication. Each seems to hint at some link between distress
about communication and negative expectations concerning the outcomes or
process of communication. Burgoon and Hale (1983) suggest that people
who find communication futile can be identified by the "unwillingness to
communicate" approach. The "unwillingness to communicate" scale was
designed to deal with reticence or quietness concerning face-to-face interactions.
Again, the degree of anxiety and fear a person experiences in a communication
situation is likely the affect the person's use of that particular style
While uses and gratifications
theory attempts to explain the reasons people use mass media and the gratifications
they receive, the researchers of this Capstone project feel the principles
of the theory can be applied to explain why many military commanders do
not support public affairs operations. The underlying principle is
that if commanders perceived that there were viable operational uses of
public affairs and that some sort of gratification would result from public
affairs efforts (either personal gratification or unit/base gratification),
then they would be more likely to adopt pro-public affairs attitudes.
Ideally, if attitudes changed, then behaviors would follow, and commanders
would begin to use public affairs professionals in the manner they are
designed to operate.
Employing the uses and gratifications
perspective has potentially significant benefits for advertisers, television
network executives, and politicians. If they can identify the form
and the content that satisfies the needs of their customers, they have
a dependable vehicle for communicating persuasive messages with success.
Similarly, public affairs officers who can identify the form and content
necessary to convey the importance of what they do are more likely to educate
their commanders about the potential uses and rewards of implementing public
Value Expectancy in
officer support for a public affairs program and its staff, the theories
of value expectancy and leader-member exchange stand out as methods of
generating support. Both theories deal with how to persuade using
either recognition of the value of an action thus improving the chances
of adoption, or the cross-communication between senior and subordinate
and upward influence tactics to gain support. The research found
clearly shows that techniques based from either theory (and the given situation),
would greatly enhance a PAO's efforts to gain support from a CO who has
single or multiple influences on him or her to disregard the public affairs
program and/or staff.
Barge (1994) outlines the
expectancy value theory as a choice-making process in which people go after
goals that they perceive as realistic, attainable and desirable.
In other words it means that people calculate the relative payoffs of accomplishing
certain goals. The author stresses that people will first calculate
the expectancy or the amount of confidence they have that certain behaviors
will be followed by a certain outcome. Secondly, people will calculate
the valance, or degree of postivity or negativity, of their view of whether
the outcome is what they wanted. The final calculation people will
make is the instrumentality, or the belief that if they go to the trouble,
the desired outcome will come about (Barge, 1994).
The author notes that
while expectancy value theory explains why people based their decision-making
in order to maximize their gains, the theory does not completely account
for all behavior. Barge (1994) says the theory falls short when the
number of possible outcomes becomes too taxing for our cognitive ability
to calculate. In addition the theory's valance considerations can
not always explain why some people avoid pursuing a goal with a negative
consequences whether the valance is large or small (Barge, 1994).
The important key in
trying to apply this theory to a nonsupport situation is:
1) limiting number of variables,
2) strong positive valance,
3) attainable desired outcome.
If the CO sees value for
the effort, the odds of gaining compliance and support are improved.
Drake and Moberg (1986) suggest
a variation of the value expectancy theory with their exchange paradigm.
The authors argue that each influence attempt is evaluated by the receiver
in terms of comparison of the contribution requested and the inducements
In their model, the authors
outline an influence attempt with the evaluation calculation stage: is
the request adequately compensated by the inducements offered in the content
of the request? The next step is the three possible responses: clearly
yes, maybe yes/no, clearly no. For clearly yes and no, there is little
consideration of the contributions/inducements the requestor receives either
non-calculative compliance or angry non-compliance. The maybe yes/no
section of the model is where the receiver calculates, or weighs, the contribution
request against the inducements offered. The result is either calculative
compliance or non-compliance (Drake and Moberg, 1986).
This provides the basis of
the argument that content does not drive influence or compliance as much
as effective communication. Influencers who use language that violates
power and social expectations will find it harder to achieve their goals
even with adequate inducements. In contrast, using language that
palliates receivers into compliance when the inducements are not good enough
or certain linguistic forms can sedate a target into automatic compliance
responses (Drake and Moberg, 1986).
The effects of non-supportive
leadership of any unit, organization or group ultimately result in poorer
subordinate performance, failure to meet or inadequately meet goals, and
drops in subordinate morale and expectations. Nebecker and Mitchell
(1974) studied the value expectancy theory as it applies to leadership
behavior and subordinate expectations of that behavior. The authors
argue that the value expectancy theory -- the perceived expectation that
a behavior is related to the attainment of outcomes weighted by the evaluation
of these outcomes -- can be used to help predict leadership behavior.
Furthermore, the authors argue that leadership behavior can facilitate
or block the attempts of subordinates to reach their work-related goals
(Nebecker and Mitchell, 1974).
Using leadership behavior
as the independent variable and individual or group outcomes as the dependent
variables, Nebecker and Mitchell (1974) studied supervisors from three
U.S. Navy air squadrons, 50 county supervisors, and their subordinates
using an 11-point Likert scale survey. The authors asked the supervisors
to self-report on the leadership traits provided in the survey, and they
asked the subordinates to rate their supervisors on how they used those
traits. The scale was set with 1=uses none of that behavior and 11=maximum
The behaviors that were rated
1) criticizing subordinates'
2) praising subordinates'
3) showing friendliness
4) explaining to subordinates
what is expected of them
5) supervising subordinates'
6) instructing subordinates
on how to do the job
7) seeking opinions from
subordinates on decisions that will affect them
8) treating worker as individuals
Compilation of their data
showed that expectations of subordinates were correlated with the extent
to which leaders used the surveyed behaviors positively and to the expectancy
value theory (Nebecker and Mitchell, 1974). while the authors called
for other research, it can be assumed that leaders, either military or
civilian, who exhibit positive leadership traits and work toward meeting
the expectations of subordinates will achieve greater success (Current
leadership elements, leadership
principles, and leadership
compentencies for the U.S. Navy --requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
also plays a role in the value expectancy context. McCroskey (1984)
suggests that communication apprehension develops as a direct result of
what outcome is expected from engaging in various communication behaviors.
Negative expectations are associated with a lack of success in communicating.
MacIntyre & Thivierge's
(1995) research found that people prefer to speak to more familiar and
more pleasant audiences, "both in terms of anticipated anxiety and their
willingness to speak" (p.465). However, the speakers seem more at
ease when speaking to pleasant strangers than to unpleasant friends.
But pleasant friends constituted the most preferred audience.
A category of communication
apprehension known as person-group communication apprehension may be helpful
in describing the relationship between commanders and their hesitations
or mistrust concerning media. Person-group communication apprehension describes
the reactions of an individual communicating with a specific person or
group. According to this perspective, some people may cause apprehension
in others in communication situations (McCroskey, 1982). This theory
supports the possibility that media may make commanders uncomfortable and
Another type of communication
apprehension that may explain commander's attitudes concerning public affairs
and the media in particular is situational communication apprehension.
This perspective describes an individual's communication apprehension to
a person or group at a given time (McCroskey, 1982). Situational
apprehension may explain a commander's fear or unwillingness to speak on
camera or grant interviews to media.
The researchers of this Capstone
project feel that communication apprehension in terms of dealing with the
news media may be a major influence on a commander's attitudes toward public
affairs and their subsequent willingness to become involved in PA programs.
Using McCroskey's (1984) perspective, it is reasonable to assume that a
commander who does not expect a high value from a military-media interaction
is unlikely to support those interactions or participate in those interactions.
Reasons for the apprehension could include fear of saying the wrong thing
and fear of embarrassment in a public forum. Or they could be related
to prejudices and pre-conceived notions about the news media's motives
Often the public affairs
office is considered an outside entity on its own installation. The
"PAO-types" constantly talk with the media and outside community sources,
which, in the mind of the non-supportive CO, are considered to be adversarial
to the military purpose. This status of "being outsiders," makes
influencing the CO difficult at best and different tactics must be considered.
One of the typical signs
of non-supportive leaders is the lack of meaningful, two-way communication
between the leader and the subordinate(s) needing support. Many times
this is perceived by subordinates as lack of concern for their work and/or
no empowerment. Fisher and Ellis (1990) say that effective leaders
exhibit flexible communicative skills. These leaders will adjust
their communicative behaviors and interpersonal relationships according
to the situation and the nature of the people they work with – the followers.
They reference several studies showing when leaders are working with motivated,
competent workers, they show more consideration and respect for them; they
also involve the workers in more decision-making and create less structure
for the workers. Their followers significantly influence these types of
leaders and their communicative behaviors.
Krone (1991) describes the
leader-member exchange theory as having subordinate relationships embedded
in groups, and that these groups are not equivalent. Two specific
groups are defined as in-groups and out-groups. The in-group enjoys
greater work-related support and responsiveness from supervisors and handles
more administering activities and has greater communication with superiors.
The out-group develops more formal and restrictive relationships with supervisors
and perform only routine tasks. However Krone (1991) points out that
the framework of the theory does not explain the extent of in-group or
out-group subordinates' use of upward influence tactics: open persuasion,
strategic persuasion, and manipulation.
The author proposes
a topology for three tactics for upward influence, which are motivated
desires for some alternative condition than what is already in force within
an organization. Open persuasion is the overt attempt by subordinates
to affect supervisors' thinking with the desired outcomes fully disclosed.
Strategic persuasion is less open with the means and closed with the ends.
Some techniques used with strategic persuasion include foot-in-the-door,
door-in-the-face, manipulation use of information, managing self-presentation,
and using ingratiation behaviors. More than the others, manipulation
involves more covert behaviors from subordinates which conceal the real
reasons and ultimate outcome from an influence attempt (Krone, 1991).
Studying the LMX theory
and upward influence tactics, Krone (1991) discovered that the quality
of the relationship in either group determine the tactic most likely used.
Krone discovered that while both groups indicated they used open and strategic
persuasion tactics, the in-group, which perceives a higher quality supervisory
relationship, uses them more than the out-group, which feels more compelled
to protect itself from non-supportive retaliatory responses. Out-group
members were also more inclined to use manipulative tactics because the
author says these tactics are less risky for the out-group relationships
because there is less to lose if caught in the deception (Krone, 1991).
As an off-shoot of the LMX
theory, Harris and Sherblom (1999) brought up one theory to explain the
behavior and the effects of non-supportive leadership in the managerial
leadership grid theory, developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in 1964
from studies conducted at Ohio State University during the 1950s.
It characterizes leadership styles: team management, authority-compliance,
middle of the road, country club management, opportunism, paternalism or
maternalism, and impoverished management on a grid with concern for people
on a vertical axis and concern for task on the horizontal axis. According
to Harris and Sherblom (1999), each axis is scaled from 1 (least) to 9
(most) and the leadership styles are placed appropriately on the scale.
For example 1,1 rating is impoverished leadership that gives no concern
to people or tasking. Likewise, 9,9 is team management which gives
high regard to both people and tasking. A commanding officer who
is non-supportive of public affairs could be possibly scored low in the
team management and concern for people categories while ranking higher
in task accomplishment (mission priorities). Harris and Sherblom
(1999) note that criticism of the theory is that it is too simplistic in
its assumption of universality, but add that it is a valuable starting
place for understanding different leadership styles and leaders.
And while it can help leaders determine when and what styles to use in
certain situations, it can also be a valuable tool to subordinates to determine
how best to influence a leader. (Harris & Sherblom, 1999).
Harris and Sherblom (1999)
state that everyone expects at least three characteristics for all leaders
to exhibit: vision, credibility and communication competence. They
point out that leaders do more than hold meetings and keep track of events.
They must hold on to the overall vision while moving the group toward that
vision. This means planning long and short-term goals, focusing attention,
managing conflict, and empowering others to help the creative process.
By credibility, Harris and
Sherblom (1999) say a leader must inspire the group’s trust and confidence
in the leader’s abilities and credibility. The authors define credibility
1) knowledge and expertise,
2) honesty and ableness,
3) remaining calm under
4) likableness, and,
5) interest in others
Leaders without credibility
are usually perceived as manipulative or dishonest and will have a harder
time gaining compliance from their subordinates.
is defined by the authors as being able to translate relevant knowledge,
skills, and situationally appropriate behavior in a way subordinates can
understand and trust. It also is defined as being able to mange ambiguity
and uncertainty – knowing how to “read” the followers as well as their
operational environment, and know when to reduce or heighten uncertainty
(Harris & Sherblom, 1999).
Often times, commanding
officers see the public affairs officer and staff as necessary evils to
be tolerated. Others see the media as an enemy that cannot be trusted.
In most cases of the non-supportive CO, the individual sees no value to
dealing with the PAO or the media and therefore sees no purpose in using
limited resources to support the endeavor. The PAO and staff must
try to provide the CO with considerations designed to gain compliance by
attaching values and benefits that guide the CO toward compliance and support.