The Impact of Air Shows, Fly-overs, Open Houses, and Guest Days
on Public Opinion
Jon Connor, Patricia Huizinga, Peter Kerr
|The reduction of the public's
uncertainty about the military should result in an increased favorable
opinion of the military. Since this is the theoretical basis for much of
the military's public affairs programs, this research should be conducted
to verify such a relationship exists.
This study's findings will have broad-reaching impact upon future military events planning. Military leaders would have the data needed to make solid decisions as to which type of military event would best benefit their public affairs considerations. Each service could also benchmark from the other services, to produce events that have the best public opinion ramifications at the least cost to the taxpayer. Furthermore, marketing data could be assessed to determine how best to promote military events, once again with a view toward increasing the public's awareness and hence, opinion of, the military.
Recruiting potential is another good reason to carry out this research. Military events are attended by families, and the action-packed nature of these events may attract many teenagers before they have decided upon their future careers (age data will assist to determine if indeed the critical audience is in attendance). With all four services suffering recruitment and retention difficulties, it is important that the military realizes the impact of military-sponsored events upon recruitment, and capitalizes upon any opportunities identified.
Because the independent variable of familiarity with the military is pre-tested and post-tested, we will be able to see how it is changed by air show attendance. If the manipulation is only slight, event designers may consider enhancing military events to better reduce the public's uncertainty of the military. This change would be enacted not on a whim, but instead it would be prompted by solid communications theoretical and empirical research.
In a very real way, this experiment will either give evidence for or against having a robust public affairs program. Public affairs operate on the basic assumption that the public needs to know about the military, and that the more they know, the more favorable they will be toward the military. That is one reason the Department of Defense joint public affairs officer's course teaches when dealing with the media or the public, information must be released to the maximum extent possible with the least amount of delay. If this research shows reduction of public uncertainty toward the military does have a positive correlation to gaining a favorable opinion of the military, public affairs will gain credibility as an important part of the armed services.
Military-sponsored events also have less tangible benefits that should be taken into consideration when contemplating their utility. Benefits to the military go far beyond simply improving the public's perceptions. Military members may feel more pride in their service, and are complimented by the mere fact that the public considers these events good enough to attend. Many units also sell food and memorabilia at these events, with the funds going toward helping out fellow military members in need or paying for lower rank unit members to attend social functions such as Christmas parties. Unit funds also pay for things like going away presents, birthday cards, school tuition grants, and office celebration cakes. When Operation Allied Force cancelled the 1999 RAF Mildenhall Air Show, units and large military friendly organizations (such as the Officers’ Wives’ Club) were severely impacted, and services within the military community had to be curtailed.