Abstract

Introduction

Literature Review

Rationale & Hypotheses

Methods

Results

Discussion

References

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Results

Quantitative Data Analysis

The researchers received 406 responses to the surveys over ten days. The prompt response is largely due to the overwhelming interest in the results. Many Public Affairs personnel sent requests for feedback and results to the researchers. All questions were asked of the Public Affairs personnel vice the commander. The results reflect the Public Affairs professionalsí perception of how their commanders might answer these survey questions.

Hypothesis 1

Our first section of questions focussed on the Public Affairs professionalís opinion of their commandersí attitudes toward the media (H1). Most of the participants in the survey report thattheir commander has established relatively good personal relations with the media (m=3.67, sd = 1.29).They also reported that their commander welcomes the opportunity to work with the media (m=3.84, sd=1.09). Most Public Affairs professionals also state that their commanders support the release of timely information to the media (m=3.67, sd=1.29).

The researchers combined the first set, questions 8-13, regarding media to determine the mean score of the responses. The researchers have labeled this new mean score "MEDIA," then used this score in further correlations.

Hypothesis 2

The next set of questions, 14, 21, 25-36, and 45-49, address the level of support that commanders lend to their Public Affairs staff (H2). The survey results show Public Affairs personnel believe that most commanders have had positive past experiences with their Public Affairs programs in enhancing mission effectiveness (m=4.09, sd=1.20). Also, the commanders also take an active interest in current Public Affairs programs (m=4.02, sd=1.16). The Public Affairs personnel also state that their commander often includes them at mission briefings and planning sessions (m=4.32, sd=.94). Overall, the Public Affairs professionals strongly agree that their commanders feel that Public Affairs plays an important role in their organization (m=4.15, sd=.98). The researchers combined these questions regarding support to determine the mean score of the responses. The researchers have labeled this new mean score "SUPPORT," then used this score in further correlations.

Hypothesis 3

The last set of questions, 15-20, 22-24, 37-44, pertains to the commandersí perception of the effectiveness and importance of their personal Public Affairs staff (H3). The Public Affairs personnel report that their commanders have a high level of trust and confidence in them. Public Affairs professionals believe that their commanders trust their staff to tell the mission story (m=4.27, sd=.98). They also believe that their commanders also see the purpose and value of Public Affairs education and training (m=3.87, sd=1.04). In addition, the Public Affairs personnel surveyed state that their commanders support their current Public Affairs programs (m=4.26, sd=.96) as well as new initiatives (m=4.15, sd=.98) as effective and important. However, Public Affairs staff report that their commanders do recognize that Public Affairs is a tenuous business. From the perspective of Public Affairs personnel, the commanders perceive that positive Public Affairs can be somewhat beneficial to promotion (m=3.36, sd=1.08) and negative Public Affairs could possibly cause embarrassment for the commanders and their peers (m=3.43, sd=1.30).

These questions which relate to perception were combined to determine a new mean score. The researchers have labeled this variable "PERCEP."

A correlation was run between the commandersí perception of Public Affairs and their support of Public Affairs (SUPPORT and PERCEP). The researchers hypothesized that a positive perception would lead to strong support, and in fact we found a correlation of .824, which is significant at the 0.01 level (see table 1).

Table 1: Correlation of Support and Perception

 

 

PERCEP

SUPPORT

PERCEP

Pearson Correlation

1.000

.824

 

Sig. (2-tailed)

.

.000

 

N

406

406

SUPPORT

Pearson Correlation

.824

1.000

 

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

.

 

N

406

406

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

The researchers also found that there is a positive correlation between the commandersí attitude towards the media and their support of Public Affairs (MEDIA and SUPPORT. This correlation is .643, which is also significant at the .01 level (see table 2).

Table 2: Correlation of Support and Media

 

 

MEDIAX

SUPPX

MEDIA

Pearson Correlation

1.000

.643

 

Sig. (2-tailed)

.

.000

 

N

406

406

SUPPORT

Pearson Correlation

.643

1.000

 

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

.

 

N

406

406

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Furthermore, the researchers looked at the data results for each service. Overall, the Coast Guard participants report the highest level of support from their commanders (m=3.87, sd=.58). The Army, however had the lowest scores for commanders support (m=3.59, sd=.66). The researchers used a bar graph design to show support of Public Affairs by service (see graph 1).

Graph 1: Support by Service

In general, junior officers felt the least amount of support from their commanders, while senior officers and all enlisted personnel felt high levels of support (see graph 2).

Graph 2: Support by Rank

Of the participants surveyed, 70% were male and 30% were female. Male participants felt more strongly supported than their female counterparts (see graph 3). The data compiled indicates that male Public Affairs professionals have a mean score of 3.75 (sd=.60) compared to female Public Affairs professionals who have a mean score of 3.57 (sd=.72).

Graph 3: Support by gender

Public Affairs personnel report that support is high during their first year at a command, but decreases through the following years of their tour. In the first year, the participants report a mean score of m=3.98, sd=.50, which indicates a fairly high level of support from their commander. This score steadily decreases through the remainder of their tour, resulting in a mean score of only m=2.92, sd=.64 at four years or more at the same command (see graph 4).

Graph 4: Support by years at command

Qualitative Data Analysis

One survey question asked for any additional comments from the participant. The comments were then analyzed through content analysis for favorable/unfavorable commander support and overall occupational field observations. One researcher developed a coding sheet (See Appendix 2) and two researchers coded the comments for positive and negative responses.

Contrary to the results from the quantitative data, almost twice as many comments from the Public Affairs personnel state that their commanders are generally unsupportive and do not understand the role, significance, or importance of Public Affairs personnel, programs, and initiatives. Of the 174 comments that were coded, 25 were positive statements, 41 were negative statements while the other 108 comments addressed general observations of the public affairs field.

Several of the comments address their commandersí attitudes towards members of the press. For example, one Public Affairs professional states, "My commander does not understand the role of electronic and print media and the role of reporters. Does not understand accept maximum disclosure with minimum delay policy. Does not understand that he canít control the content of a media piece." Another comment is, "Most commanders are reluctant to risk communicating with the media on important issues and would rather pass up the opportunity to engage the media for the fear that it will go wrong."

 

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