Literature Review

Rationale & 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 personnel. In the study, commanders were given a self-report questionnaire that was used to evaluate the commanderís perception of their working relationship with Public Affairs. Cannon (1984) concluded that commanders have overall positive and supportive relationships with their Public Affairs staff.

However, this Capstone project evaluated commanders' perceptions from the Public Affairs personnelís point of view. That is, how do Public Affairs professionals think their commanders view public affairs, and what is the level of support from their commanders? An analysis of perceptions will be most useful in determining what influences commanders view of public affairs and how those influences affect subsequent support for Public Affairs programs. The theoretical perspectives chosen by the researchers indicate that various influences shape an individualís perception of what is beneficial or useful. These theoretical perspectives indicate there are competing influences that shape commandersí perceptions of public affairs and subsequent support for PA programs.

Effective Public Affairs 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 minimum 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 (gratification) from military-media interactions, or even apprehension about saying the wrong thing and being embarrassed. The first hypothesis of this research project is:

H1: From the perspective of the Public Affairs professional, commanders' attitudes towards the news media can affect how they interact with the media.

When a commander does not understand the benefits of a successful Public Affairs program, they will be less likely to employ these assets. A commander must understand the true value that results from implementing effective public affairs programs. Value expectancy theory suggests that commanders will be more likely to utilize a program if they are confident in its value. This understanding of the role of Public Affairs and subsequent support leads to the second hypothesis:

H2: From the perspective of the Public Affairs professional, commanders' attitude towards Public Affairs is a major influence on their support of Public Affairs.

Commandersí experiences with public affairs 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 our third hypothesis:

H3: From the perspective of the Public Affairs professional, commanders' perception of their personal public affairs staff, both past and present, influences how they perceive the effectiveness and importance of public affairs.

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