Abstract

Introduction

Literature Review

Rationale & Hypotheses

Methods

Results

Discussion

References

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Discussion

The theoretical perspectives chosen by the researchers 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 an issue with regard to 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 (Schramm, Lyle, & Parker, 1961). 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 Public Affairs personnel.

Leaders who are rated as supportive and have positive perceptions of public affairs are likely to be knowledgeable in the uses and associated rewards of implementing effective public affairs programs. From the uses and gratifications perspective, supportive commanders will likely score high in understanding the Public Affairs role in the mission and effective uses of public affairs.

From a value expectancy theory perspective, supportive commanders will likely score high in their perception of the value of Public Affairs to the overall mission. Supportive commanders will also demonstrate more positive attitudes toward new media within the value expectancy framework.

Finally, from a leader-member exchange perspective, supportive commanders are more likely to have positive perceptions of their Public Affairs staff if their staff is competent and trustworthy.

Based on the stated hypotheses, the researchers found that commanders' perceptions of public affairs lead to the subsequent level of support. The commandersí perception is based on their understanding of public affairs' role and value in accomplishing the mission, their past and present experience (both positive and negative) with public affairs personnel and their attitude toward the news media. The researchers also found a correlation between the commandersí attitudes towards the media and their support of Public Affairs programs.

There were considerable differences between the results for the qualitative and quantitative data. Overall, the results for the quantitative data were very positive. From the perspective of the Public Affairs professionals, their commanders have a fairly positive attitude toward the media. The Public Affairs personnel also report a strong level of support from their commanders and a positive perception of the Public Affairs field.

However, when asked to provide any additional comments, the Public Affairs personnel responded with much more negativity with regard to their perception of their commanders' attitudes, support, and perception. Of the comments that were clearly negative or clearly positive, 64% of the responses were negative.

From the perspective of Public Affairs personnel, U.S. military commanders have a slightly positive attitude towards the media (m=3.32, sd=.60). The Public Affairs professionals surveyed have a more optimistic perspective regarding how their commanders feel about Public Affairs. They somewhat agree that their commanders have a positive perception of Public Affairs (m=3.69, sd=.46). The highest level of agreement that Public Affairs personnel report is their commanders' support for Public Affairs (m=3.70, sd=.64).

As the researches expected, a positive perception leads to greater support. If a commander understands the vital role that Public Affairs plays on today's battlefield, they will include Public Affairs as a mission essential component.

Limitations

The limitation of the research lies in the perceived understanding of the commandersí perspective. The researchers cannot predict how the commanders themselves would answer the survey questions. The results are based on the Public Affairs professionalsí meta-meta perspective, or how they think their commander feels. Cahnís theory of perceived understanding states that the perception of feeling understood is an important factor in the relationship development process (Infante et al., 1997). If the Public Affairs professionals perceive that they are understood, they will be more likely to continue to interact with their commanders, and vice versa. Cahn also states that as relationships develop and mature, perceived understanding becomes more important.

The researchers of this study argue that the opinion of the Public Affairs professionals is in fact an important observation when correlating this data with past studies done on actual feelings of commanders. If the Public Affairs staff feels that they are understood and supported, they will be much more likely to find their jobs rewarding and satisfying.

Future Research

The researchers realize that Public Affairs personnel are much more accessible than senior commanders. Still, it would be very interesting to concurrently survey both senior leaders and Public Affairs personnel in the same service commands to rate their perception of the Public Affairs command support. This research can be analyzed with respect to direct working relationships and the perceptions of both parties regarding commander support of public affairs. The researchers recommend that a follow-on version of this survey eventually be sent to command leaders with Public Affairs personnel. The results can be analyzed to assess the major influences shaping leaderís perceptions and attitudes toward Public Affairs from a individual unit perspective. The commanders could also report their feelings about the press, and how confident they are in the media to tell their mission story. Another valuable project would be to survey the media, and rate the level of support that they perceive from the Public Affairs staff.

Meghan Mariman, LT, USN | Steve Butler, CAPT, USMC | Cameron Porter, SSGT, USA