The subjects were military public affairs practitioners from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard (N=49), who voluntarily participated – after solicitation via e-mail or referral from a colleague or public affairs electronic bulletin board - in an Internet-based survey (see Appendix B). The subjects included active duty military, reservists, National Guardsmen, and civilians (see Appendix C). The length of service as a military public affairs practitioner ranged from 2 to 32 years (with an average of 13.7). Subjects reported dealing with as few as 1 crisis and as many as 114. Survey respondents were given nine examples of crisis communication situations: crashes/accidents, training injuries/deaths, racial incidents, homosexual incidents, sexual harassment, environmental incidents, terrorist incidents, computer hacking, and community related incidents. An open-ended question allowed subjects to provide their own examples (see Appendix D). Each subject was informed of the goal of the survey either through e-mail or when accessing the Internet page to start the survey.
The survey consists of 77 questions. The first four questions gather demographic data about each subject. The fifth question controls participation in the survey, (if the subject answered no, they selected a link that took them out of the survey). This ensures that all respondents completing the survey have dealt with at least one crisis communication situation. Questions 6 through 16 gather information on the types and numbers of crisis communication situations each subject has encountered. Beginning with question 17, the survey gathered data about the 12 crisis communication strategies posited by Hunter, et al. (2000). Practitioners were presented with a definition of each strategy followed by five questions. The first of the five ask whether the subject has used the strategy, with a “yes”, “no” or “unsure” answer required. If the subject answers “yes” they proceeded to a Likert-scale question asking their perception of the strategy’s effectiveness on a one to five scale. The third question is open-ended, asking respondents to provide specific tactics used in support of the strategy. All subjects were then asked if they would utilize the strategy for future crisis communication situations. The final question in each section was also open-ended, allowing additional comments on the strategy. This pattern was repeated for each of the 12 theoretical strategies. The final question asked respondents for general comments about military crisis communication.