Table of Contents

Home
Abstract
Statement of Problem
Literature Review
Method
Projected Results
Discussion
References

DoD Short Course Class 00-B

Proposed Methodology, Rationale, and Hypotheses

 
Rationale and Hypotheses
 Existing literature 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:

 RQ1:  What 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:

 H3: Commanderís 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 project is:

 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.

 Method
 Previous research 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.    

Phase I
 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.

 Phase II
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 the sample.  

Phase III  
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 affairs.

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 public affairs.

Phase IV
 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.