A Matter of Trust: A Prospectus on Improving Levels of Trust
between Military Public Affairs and the Media
Military public affairs and the media have historically had a
dynamic relationship. Because each relies on the other to accomplish its mission,
the quality of the relationship greatly impacts each other's success. Although
many factors contribute to the quality of the relationship, few have the same
impact as trust. The elusive and fragile nature of trust makes it one of the
most difficult characteristics to maintain. Therefore, if several variables
affecting the level of trust can be identified and manipulated, trust could
Trust is the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions
of another party based on the expectations that the other will perform a particular
action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control
that other party. It is applicable to a relationship with another identifiable
party who is perceived to act and react with volition toward the trustor (Mayer
& Davis, 1995).
Communication is essential in fostering an environment of trust.
The value placed in communication is derived from the reliability, timeliness
(Cufaude, 1999), predictability, consistency, and dependability of the partner's
actions (Zaheer, McEvily, & Perrone, 1998). Furthermore, trust can be measured
on the interpersonal or organizational level.
Several factors form the basis of trust on the interpersonal level. Expertness,
reliability, and dynamism are widely accepted as variables that contribute to
building interpersonal trust. Expertness refers to the expertise and knowledge
of the subject matter. Reliability addresses the dependability of the partner.
Dynamism refers to the confidence level of the partner. Organizational trust
factors are slightly different than interpersonal ones.
Competence, integrity and rapport are factors that determine
organizational trust. Whether a partner is properly or sufficiently qualified
in his role describes competence. Integrity encompasses the extent of honesty,
commitment, and adherence to a set of principles the partner exhibits. Acting
fair and honoring agreements also contribute to integrity. Rapport involves
the level of the relationship. Understanding of roles and responsibilities within
the relations as well as a shared vision, purpose and direction also define
In this prospectus, a survey was created using both sets of trust factors to
form 28 Likert-type questions. The survey is used to measure the level of trust
in local and national media. Media is operationally defined as television broadcast
reporters, print journalists, radio news reporters, and wire news services.
After administering the survey initially to establish a baseline
trust level, the survey will be re-administered three additional times throughout
the following year. Three situations have been identified as opportunities to
Planned operations, emergency situations, and shifts in policy are the three
main categories used to judge trust. Planned operations are defined as long-range
exercises of which the public affairs officer has prior knowledge. Emergency
situations encompass natural disasters, military accidents or any unplanned
event that requires immediate
response. Policy shifts involve the dissemination of new guidance at the service
level or the Department of Defense level.
Upon administering the survey, the results will indicate which
one or more factors are lower than others. Identifying these variables will
allow them to be positively manipulated to improve the level of trust. Because
trust is dynamic, it is constantly changing as it cycles through phases of building,
stabilizing and dissolving. During each step in the evolution of trust, the
survey can provide valuable information for increasing trust levels.