|Rationale and Hypotheses
about commanderís perceptions of public affairs has been mostly limited
to the commanderís view. Cannon (1984) studied the relationships
between commanders and their public affairs Officers. In the study
commanders were given a self-report questionnaire that was used to evaluate
the commanderís perception of his or her working relationship with the
public affairs Officer. Cannon (1984) concluded commanders have overall
positive and supportive relationships with their public affairs officers.
However, this Capstone project
intends to first look at commanders' perceptions from the PAO's point of
view. That is, how do PAOs think their commanders view public affairs,
and how do PA's perceive the level of support from their commanders?
Based on theoretical perspectives and practical experience, the authors
of this paper believe that there is a contrast between commanders' perceptions
of public affairs and what PAOs think their commanders' perceptions are.
An analysis of perceptions, both from the PAO and the commander, will be
most useful in determining what influences are most important on a commander's
view of public affairs and how those influences affect subsequent support
for PA programs.
The theoretical perspectives
chosen indicate that various influences shape an individualís perception
of what is beneficial or useful. According to value expectancy theory,
expected value shapes attitude. People weigh the positive and negative
aspects of something depending on what they hope to achieve (Barge, 1994).
Similarly, applying uses and gratifications theory, commanders will use
public affairs in ways they feel will best facilitate their needs and the
needs of the unit, weighing effort versus perceived gratification.
Leader-member exchange theory relates to communication between superiors
and subordinates and how that shapes the relationships (Fisher & Ellis,
1990). This theory is especially useful in examining the interpersonal
relationships between commanders and PAOs and how those relationships may
affect a commander's view of public affairs as a whole. These theoretical
perspectives indicate there are competing influences shaping commandersí
perceptions of public affairs and subsequent support for PA programs,
which leads to the research question posited by this paper:
are the major influences that shape a commanderís perception of and support
for public affairs?
When a commander does
not understand how to use public affairs effectively, he or she will be
less likely to use public affairs to its potential. A commander must
understand what public affairs people are trained for and how they fit
into the overall mission. Without a complete understanding of PA's
role in the mission commanders are unlikely to use PA in an appropriate
manner. Uses and gratifications theory deals mostly with how an audience
uses media, but the application here (how a commander uses public affairs)
is relevant. This understanding of PAís role leads to the first hypothesis:
H1: A commanderís
understanding of the public affairs role in mission accomplishment is one
of the major influences on how a commander perceives public affairs.
Similarly, a commander must
understand the true value that results from implementing effective public
affairs programs. Value expectancy theory applies here, as commanders
will be more likely to utilize a program if they are confident in its value
and what it can do for them. This principle of the ďvalueĒ of public
affairs leads to the second hypothesis:
H2: A commander's
understanding of the value of public affairs is one of the major influences
on how a commander perceives public affairs.
Any experience commanders
may have had with public affairs people will shape their perceptions of
the whole career field. Research by Nebecker and Mitchell (1974)
applied value expectancy to superior-subordinate relationships. They
posited that the value-expectancy a commander has concerning a subordinate
could predict leadership behavior. Commanders base their expectations
of individuals on past or present working experiences. This principle
leads to the third hypothesis:
perceptions of the public affairs people they have worked with, both past
and present, are a major influence on how they perceive public affairs
as a whole.
Effective PA programs usually
involve open and honest relations with the news media. However, despite
the need to engage the media and release the maximum amount of information
with a minimum of delay, commanders may be unwilling to communicate with
the media. This unwillingness may stem from a lack of understanding
of how to use the media for positive purposes, lack of perceived value
from military-media interactions, or even apprehension about saying the
wrong thing and being embarrassed. The final hypothesis of this research
H4: A commanderís
perception/attitude toward the news media is one of the major influences
on how a commander perceives public affairs as a whole.
by Cannon (1984) surveyed commanders about their attitudes toward public
affairs, and results indicated that commanders were extremely supportive
of and involved in their PA programs. The researchers of this Capstone
believed that surveying public affairs officers was a necessary prerequisite
before surveying commanders. In many cases, commanders will see themselves
as having positive views of PA and actively supporting the PA mission,
while their PAOs view them as being uninvolved and non-supportive of public
affairs programs. It is necessary to compare and contrast the results
of both sets of data in order to get a more accurate picture of commanders'
views of public affairs.
The four researchers
in this study formed a focus group to develop hypotheses about what the
most important influences are affecting commandersí perceptions of public
affairs and subsequent support of PA programs. Using both the theoretical
perspectives discussed above and previous personal experiences interacting
with military leaders, the researchers developed a comprehensive list of
possible competing influences on commandersí perceptions of Public affairs.
From that list, some influences were combined and others were eliminated.
As indicated in the Rationale and Hypotheses section, the resulting four
categories of influence centered around commandersí understanding of PAís
1) role, 2) value, 3) views of PAOs and 4) attitudes toward the news media.
Participants in this study
will consist of an equally balanced sample of chiefs/directors of public
affairs each of the branches of the armed services including the Coast
Guard. The criteria for participating in the survey are that the
respondent must be the chief/director of their public affairs office and
must work directly for the commander. As such, the sample will consist
mostly of officers, but will also include a number of civilians and enlisted
personnel who do not work under a public affairs officer, but work directly
for the commander. The researchers will use stratified random sampling
of PAOs in which the number of respondents in each service is based on
that serviceís number of PAOs. In addition, the researchers will
ensure proportional representation of PAO ranks and experience levels in
An electronic questionnaire
consisting of 35 quantitative measures will be used to analyze, from the
PAOís perspective, the relationship between four categories of influence
and commandersí perceptions of public affairs. The first section
of the survey consists of seven questions designed to gather general demographic
information about participants. The second section consists of five
questions designed to measure how PAOs view the level of support
their commander provides for PA programs and the commanderís overall attitudes
toward public affairs. Section three consists of 30 questions measuring
the effects of various influences on commandersí perceptions of public
Questions 1-5 ask respondents
to explicitly rate their commanderís attitudes toward public affairs and
their level of support for public affairs programs. These five questions
establish the baseline for the survey, which will be used for comparison
against answers to questions related to the four influences.
Commandersí perception of
news media is one of the four influences outlined in the research project.
How the commander views the media, either as enemy, irritant or ally, directly
impacts how effectively the PAO is able to accomplish the PA mission.
Questions 6, 8, 12, 18, 23, 27, 30, and 34 are designed to measure the
PAOís estimate of commander perceptions of the news media.
Questions 7, 11, 13, 16,
17, 19, 25, and 28 deal with the perception of a commander's view of the
public affairs' role within their command. These questions will assess
how PAOs feel their commanders understand public affairs in terms of its
role in the accomplishment of the command mission. All too often
commanders inadequately employ and even misuse public affairs, resulting
in problems achieving both public affairs and command goals.
Closely related to commanders'
thoughts on the role of public affairs is the value commanders gain from
effective public affairs. Questions 10, 22, 24,29, 32, and 33 will
determine if there is any correlation between a commander's overall support
for PA programs and his or her understanding of the value of public affairs.
Questions 9, 14, 15, 20,
21, 26, 31, and 35 will determine if there is any correlation between a
commander's perception of public affairs personnel and his or her perceptions
and support of public affairs programs. A commander's interaction
with either very good or very poor PAOs will be an important influence
on how that commander perceives public affairs as a whole.
Finally there is one open-ended
question designed to solicit any additional influences not addressed in
the survey, as well as one question asking participants to rate the level
of confidence in their ability to gauge their commandersí perceptions of
Data from the survey
will be analyzed to determine levels of correlation between the various
influences studied and commanders' resulting perceptions and support for
public affairs programs. The researchers will compose a matrix using
Pearson's product moment correlations with an alpha level of .05.
Relationships between the different influences will be examined to determine
which influences are the strongest and which ones are likely to go hand-in-hand
with others. Data will also be broken down by service to see if there
are service-specific trends relating to commander perceptions and support
of public affairs. The data will also be analyzed to determine if
there is any correlation between commanders' perceptions of public affairs
and the rank and experience level of the PA respondents.