Abstract

Introduction

Literature Review

Rationale & Hypotheses

Methods

Results

Discussion

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Introduction

Military Public Affairs personnel have one of the most challenging and unique missions in the armed services. They are responsible for developing and implementing information campaigns to inform and educate military members and the American public about the roles and mission of the military in peacetime and in war. In the military, mission accomplishment is the ultimate goal. However, seizing the initiative to tell the military story is the only way to gain and maintain the trust and support of military members and the American Public.

Recognizing that effective communication is one of the most important elements of leadership; it is fundamental that commanders at all levels support the Public Affairs mission. Public affairs professionals must provide commanders the opportunity and training they need to effectively communicate key messages to the internal and external audiences. Likewise, commanders must provide their Public Affairs personnel the access and latitude to provide timely and relevant operational information.

Unfortunately, not every military commander realizes the true value of Public Affairs. If commanders do not recognize the full potential of Public Affairs, commanders are unlikely to provide the necessary support to ensure success. A commanderís lack of support for Public Affairs may result from a lack of education and understanding of the Public Affairs role. Another factor may be the commander's fear and distrust towards the news media. These "feared" reporters and journalists are actually a useful medium to assist commanders in communicating the military story.

This Capstone project is designed to assess commandersí perceptions of Public Affairs from the perspective of the Public Affairs professional. The researchers developed a 50-question Internet survey that was distributed to Public Affairs professionals in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Through Likert scale questions, Public Affairs personnel assessed their commanderís attitudes toward Public Affairs. A single written comment question regarding favorable or unfavorable commander support is included for obtaining content analysis data. The researchers recommend that a follow-on version of this survey should eventually be sent to commanders, and the results from both should be analyzed to assess the major influences shaping leaderís perceptions and attitudes toward Public Affairs. The ultimate goal of this research would be to devise strategies that PA professionals could use to foster a positive and productive relationship between the commander and Public Affairs.

The research project will attempt to determine the level of support from the commander towards Public Affairs programs. Some obstacles that Public Affairs personnel must overcome are commanders who typically refuse interview requests, shy away from interaction with the community, resist the chance to write an editorial for the base newspaper, or neglect the opportunity to address their internal audience.

Public Affairs professionals should have the ability to quickly assess and understand their commander's perceptions and attitudes towards Public Affairs in order to understand how to interact with them. Without an understanding of their perception, Public Affairs professionals are handicapped in their ability to gain the confidence and support of the commander and other staff members.

The research design consists of a quantitative questionnaire for Public Affairs officers to assess their commander's perceptions and attitudes toward Public Affairs. The data collected from the initial questionnaires should be used in the development of future questionnaires directly targeting those in command positions. Ultimately, this research will assist in developing strategies of influence that Public Affairs personnel can use to generate support from commanders who have traditionally been non-supportive and uninvolved in public affairs programs.

In order to approach this problem more appropriately, it is necessary to identify relevant theories that serve to conceptualize the problem allowing for a more effective plan of study.

 

 

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