Communications Case Studies
At least two military public affairs communications campaigns using the
DOD model suggest public affairs professionals can help shape the agenda
and have a positive effect on public opinion (USAOCPA, 1998; SPACECOM,
2000). The U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (1998) used
an extensive communications campaign to help restore public confidence
in it as an institution after the sexual misconduct scandals of 1996-97
(Gallup, 1999, July). The majority of editorials, while condemning the
individual transgressors, reacted positively to the Armyís aggressive stance.
The combined efforts of the North American Aerospace Command, U.S. Space
Command, and Air Force Space Command (2000) to mitigate Y2K hype resulted
in a decrease by half of public concern for the effects of Y2K on United
States strategic systems (Gallup, 1999, December).
The U.S. Army
and Sexual Harassment
The U.S. Army (USAOCPA, 1998) faced harsh criticism across the ideological
spectrum in early 1997 with the discovery of widespread sexual misconduct
primarily throughout the Armyís training installations. An institution
entrusted with Americaís sons and daughters was losing its image as a trustworthy
institution and a declining pool of recruits seemed imminent (USAOCPA,
1998). The Army studied the lessons of the Navyís Tailhook sexual harassment
episode, its own West Point groping scandal, and other public affairs case
studies and quickly understood that recovery was possible as long as the
Army maintained its credibility.
The U.S. Army (USAOCPA, 1998, p.1) believed credibility would only come
from "quick, forthright, contrite admissions of deficiency, media access
to senior leaders, and unfettered access to service personnel and their
daily business." The U.S. Army (USAOCPA, 1998) set three main goals for
its communications plan: (1) rebuild and regain Americaís trust, (2) recover
recruiting targets, and (3) retain independence in corrective actions.
The communications methodologies employed by the U.S. Army (USAOCPA, 1998)
ensured aggressive and open communications with the public, cultivating
confidence with each audience, and providing a framework of expectations
regarding resolution. The primary tactic was ensuring "everyone spoke with
one voice." This required a convenient, centralized database of public
affairs guidance with themes and responses to queries (USAOCPA, 1998).
plan required balance between the publicís right to know and rights of
the accused and the victims. After the initial announcement by U.S. Army
leadership in the Pentagon, several Army leaders quickly seized the opportunity
to speak on major network news of what the Army was doing about the misconduct.
Army leaders conducted 212 live interviews, including 16 in 17 days by
the Army Secretary Togo West, and facilitated 223 visits to affected posts.
The primary target audience, the American public, was served through these
interviews with directed messages of regret and a commitment to correct
the problem (USAOCPA, 1998).
determined a positive reaction to the U.S. Armyís aggressive course of
action. The Army enhanced its standing with the public, female recruiting
surpassed recruiting goals, and re-enlistment was up. Army public affairs
determined their goals had been met and the communications plan a success
Y2K and U.S.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), U. S. Space Command
(USSPACECOM), and Air Force Space Command (AFSPCOM) faced a daunting task
as the new millennium approached. The tri-commands, led by a single commander-in-chief,
are responsible for strategic warning, defense satellite systems, and strategic
response systems. In early 1999, they set about the task of reassuring
national and international publics that widespread predictions permeating
the news cycle of catastrophic civil and defense infrastructure failure
due to Y2K computer problems were simply not true.
Of particular public affairs significance was the concern for similar Russian
systems and a Gallup (1998, December) poll showing nearly one-third of
the American people believed a nuclear power or defense accident was likely.
To assuage the fears, the two nuclear superpowers agreed to establish a
Center for Y2K Strategic Stability (CY2KSS) to share missile warning information
and guard against strategic miscalculations. The CY2KSS was to be located
on the same installation as the tri-commands headquarters, Peterson Air
Force Base, Colorado. These factors convinced the tri-commandís public
affairs officials to develop a comprehensive communications plan to educate
The tri-command public affairs communications plan (SPACECOM, 2000) envisaged
a dynamic, year-long campaign to educate the media and reassure national
and international publics that there would be no inadvertent nuclear exchange
between the superpowers. The plan was flexible to deal with changing information
and new measurement results as the tri-commands completed operational evaluations
on their strategic computer systems. To ensure public confidence, the media
had unprecedented access to normally high-secure areas (SPACECOM, 2000).
The year-long execution phase culminated in a five-day media event leading
up to the millennium rollover. Media had access to senior leaders of the
United States and the visiting Russian delegation who consistently portrayed
confidence in their countries systems. Access was given to national and
international media to strategic sites in Wyoming and Colorado including
missile silos, underground command and control centers, satellite operation
centers, and the historic U.S./Russian CY2KSS. Media were present in the
CY2KSS and the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC), an underground
strategic missile warning center in Colorado Springs, during the rollover
NORAD, USSPACECOM, and AFSPCOM clearly exceeded their objectives (SPACECOM,
2000). Two-thirds of the news coverage contained at least one of the tri-commandís
messages and an astounding 97% of the stories were positive or balanced.
Most importantly, the number of people who believed a nuclear power or
defense accident was likely dropped to 15% with a constant 3% having no
opinion (Gallup, 1999, December).
hypothesis we advance is:
H2: Defense appropriations
are positively correlated with public opinion of the military.