The purpose of this paper is to develop a foundation for the benchmarking
of media relations practices for military public affairs. The benchmarking
of media relations practices is accomplished through application of communication
theories intrinsically related to media relations. Benchmarking is also
accomplished through an application of a set of three criteria, developed
by the team, based on commonalities of media relations field functions
and a comprehensive review of military media relations regulations. The
military services believe that they have based their public affairs media
relations programs on solid foundational doctrine. Despite this doctrine,
there exist numerous service in-house studies, books, articles, and frequent
seminars that identify a perceived gap. This gap exists on many levels,
but primarily lies between what the military does and what the media perceives
our role should be. On a larger scope, the examination of media relations
techniques through benchmarking helps to examine if this mindset of a
"gap" truly exists, if it is warranted, if it lies in practices
and doctrine, and if it can be improved by applying new practices.
Our research identifies best practices, or benchmarking. Benchmarking
is a business practice that is being pursued in thousands of corporations
across the world. By applying the principles of benchmarking, the authors
aim to help identify better practices, if evident, and present them for
application throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). This project will
also serve as a "do-it-yourself" model for benchmarking unit-level
media relations practices. Although this project only examines "best
practices" of the convenience sample it used due to time constraints,
it offers insight into what are some good practices. These practices may
be applied in order to advance the relationship of military public affairs
and the media and help to ensure mission accomplishment.
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the history of the military and the history of democratic media there
has existed a competitive relationship. The balance between the right
to know and need to know often creates misunderstanding and miscommunication.
The public has a right to know what the military does. Citizens pay taxes,
and an informed public is the key to a democracy, and it allows the military
to exist (HQMC, 1997).
The coupling of
the military and media is similar to an arranged marriage. The arranger,
the Constitution of the United States of America, presupposes that the
military is accountable to the American public as it is a partner within
the executive branch of the federal government. As a partner, the military
uses funds and utilizes America's most precious commodity, human resource,
to defend interests abroad and at home. The media, often referred to as
the fourth estate, provides information to the American public so they
can make decisions through their elected legislators. This arrangement,
like many marriages, is not without problems. The first problem area is
The first essential in military operations is that no information of value
shall be given to the enemy. The first essential in newspaper work and
broadcasting is wide-open publicity. It is your job and mine to try to
reconcile those sometimes diverse considerations. (Eisenhower, 1941)
The problem of balancing operational security with public right to know
is but one problem that faces this relationship. Before one can examine
and improve the relationship, one must understand and have a common ground
on what is meant by the word relationship when talking about the military
and the media. Webster's defines relationship as the quality of state
of having a connection and awareness of the kinship (Neufeldt, 1998).
This definition fits the military/media relationship very well as this
connection is one based on the same principle of providing information
to the public while working together as a team.
This paper examines
the teamwork part of this relationship, and benchmarking helps to improve
that part and further the mission. An important note regarding this statement
is that the goal of this paper is not to gain an upper hand or more control
in the relationship, but to improve the relationship in order to accomplish
the mission better. This understanding of relationship will also help
us better define "success" as it relates to media relations.
Success is measured in how well we accomplish the mission of public affairs
and provide information. The focus is on the release of accurate and timely
information and not in whether or not the news released is positive or
whether it casts the military in a positive light.
The relationship is also an inter-organizational relationship. However,
as in the case of many organizations - they don't relate, people relate
(Infante, Rancer & Womack, 1997). Without people in the process, a
military and media relationship would not occur. If we then theorize that
the relationship is of a personal nature, we can assume that this relationship
is intercultural. As we move through the examination of the relationship,
one may also say that a reason why this coupling may often be considered
strained is that it is an inter- organizational, personal, and cultural
relationship. Elements of many healthy relationships frequently include
commitment, responsibility, self-preservation, honesty, and work. If a
better understanding of this relationship, coupled with better practices,
is developed, the "gap" between the military and the media may
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Statement of Problem
affairs are generally comprised of three areas: Community relations, media
relations, and internal relations. Media affairs is a dynamic and fast-paced
occupation, and it is often times an on-the-job training event for the
parties involved. Many of the challenges facing the public affairs community
revolve around an "ethnocentrism" in part by both the military
and the media. As evidenced in many discussions and writings about military
and media relations, there exists a definitive gap or misunderstanding
between the two from both sides. Evidence supporting this mistrust and
misunderstanding is supported through article and book titles such as:
"The Pentagon Reporters; Why People Distrust The Press; Trusting
Ourselves With The News; Shooting The Messenger; How The Generals Out
Did The Journalists; Trying To Censor Reality; Hotel Warriors; The Odd
Couple, Panama - Live from the Marriott." Much of the misunderstanding
blame may fall on the military according to U.S. Army Colonel, Harry G.
There is a tendency
to blame our problems with public support on the media. This is too easy
an answer. The majority of on-scene reporting from Vietnam was factual,
that is, the reporters honestly reported what they had seen first hand.
Much of what they saw was horrible, for that is the true nature of war.
It was this horror, not the reporting, that so influenced the American
people. (Summers, 1982, p.22)
Marine general Anthony Zinni remarked: And the media report everything--good
things, warts, and all. And everyone knows that the warts tend to make
better stories. As a CinC, I've probably been chewed out by seniors about
five times -- and four of the five were about something I'd said to the
media. At this stage of my life, it doesn't really bother me--because
where in hell do I go from here? But if you are a lieutenant or a captain
and you see another officer get fried, you react differently. The message
is clear: 'Avoid the media.' And the message hardens into a Code: 'They
are the enemy. Don't be straight with them.' And that is bad. (MDET, 2002,
study is conducted to try to make relationship better, to be straight,
and cultivate the desire for the media to be straight as well. The focus
is not to manipulate or control the relationship, but to improve its symbiotic
Both the military
and the media are playing for the same team, yet there is a perceived
struggle to work with each other on many levels. The press and the military
have played vital roles in American democracy since the founding of the
nation and in order to move forward and provide the American public with
the information they deserve, the gulf must be bridged. Benchmarking practices
of other successful organizations help the military evaluate what is being
done and what can be done better.
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review is an account of a miniscule portion of what has been published
on the various topics that were found insightful to this paper. Six distinct
and important areas have been selected to provide the reader with a better
understanding of what knowledge and ideas exist on the topics covered
and how the ideas relate to the criteria presented in the methods section
of this piece. The strengths and weaknesses of the contexts examined serve
as a guiding concept for the reader to better understand the areas targeted
for benchmarking and to critically examine the work. The relevant, appropriate,
and useful areas selected include: benchmarking, information and uncertainty
context, intercultural communication theory, interpersonal communication
theory, organizational communication theory and the context of mass communication.
Benchmarking is a method used for this project and as such, an important
element to examine. Business literature across the internet and trade
magazines seeking people to use their benchmarking organization or techniques
tell us that benchmarking can be a tool to help you improve your business
processes and that almost any business process can be benchmarked. The
process of identifying, understanding, and adapting outstanding practices
from organizations anywhere in the world to help an organization improve
its performance can be very effective according to The Benchmarking Exchange
(KM World, 2002). "To be the best, you must compare yourself to the
best" (Hoewing, R. President, Public Affairs Council).
business or agency can use benchmarking as it is a highly respected practice
in the business world. As an activity, a successful business looks outward
to find best practice and high performance and then measures actual business
operations against those goals. Since 1992, the use of benchmarking has
increased and many leaders in the business community use the techniques
and consider themselves "among the leaders in their industries"
(Fleisher, C., 1995, p. 5).
One of the biggest mistakes people make when beginning their benchmarking
endeavor is that they only look to benchmark someone within their own
industry (KM World, 2002). In this case, if the authors examined military
to military, odds are, they would not produce desired results. One of
the risks encountered in conducting a benchmarking study on media relations
is that the military may in fact know what works and what doesn't, so
many may take this study for granted. If anything, this study could serve
as a brainstorming exercise to examine the way other organizations achieve
their public affairs successes. Another problem that the authors could
run into is that instead of examining what we already do, we could actually
benchmark an organization worse than our organization or benchmark something
that we cannot use due to the obvious differences in military public affairs,
and commercial or private media relations.
A key in benchmarking is to find a company that is a good model. With
limited resources, funding, and time, our group created a means to gain
a best-case scenario. Without a large sample of "best companies"
that were readily accessible, we opted to find variety in agencies. Selection
of organizations for this study is more closely examined in the methods
and discussion sections.
referred to as Best Practices, Exemplary Practices, and Business Excellence,
benchmarking seeks to finds better processes that are adaptable to organizations.
The research team selected a wide variety of agencies to examine in order
to find the broadest range of ideas. More information about the sample
is contained in the methods section.
In this case, the ability to conduct a purist benchmarking study is limited,
and we have designed a system of examining three main media relations.
Developed from a pre-examination of existing concepts and brainstorming,
the criteria developed falls into three categories: PEOPLE, TRAINING,
and EQUIPMENT. A series of theories learned throughout the DoD Joint Course
in Communication are then applied to the three categories. Examining the
current state, desired state and other business' states helps create a
better and more useable benchmarking.
Information and Uncertainty Context
The idea of uncertainty reduction has been around since humans were able
to communicate. Studying uncertainty reduction helps us to better understand
and predict human behavior, and the relationship between the military
are looking at motivation factors to better understand uncertainty. Researchers
such as Mignerey and Rubin (1995) and Kramer (1999) looked at behaviors
and variables that effect our motivations to reduce uncertainty. One of
the results of these studies is that a newcomer to a corporation will
have a high degree of uncertainty. Their research also attempts to understand
frequent movers' tolerance for uncertainty and how this relates to their
socialization. The theory of interpersonal communication is becoming the
building block for improving corporate socialization and can be applied
in our context. In many ways, the media are often thrown into situations
in which they have little idea what the military is about and that there
are diverse considerations to be made when reporting on this organization.
If they have much uncertainty, they may find it hard to work with the
military and they may develop unfair or unrealistic expectations. Add
unfamiliar surroundings of a deployed situation and the uncertainty is
The early stages of uncertainty reduction theory (URT) looked at what
role impressions and perceptions play in forming opinions about people
we meet for the first time. Asch, S. E. (1946) marveled over human beings'
ability to create an impression of a person by understanding the characteristics
of a person. By observing traits humans are able to form impressions about
other individuals. He theorized that "if a person possesses traits
a, b, c, d, and e, then the impression of him may be expressed as Impression
= a + b + c + d + e" (Asch, 1946, p.258-259)." He further hypothesized
that each trait interacts with one or more of the others and the overall
impression can be a result of these effects (Asch, 1946).
(1953) wrote about symmetry in interpersonal relationships. His hypotheses
is that person "(A) transmits information to another person (B) about
something (X) and their interdependence is termed co-orientation"
(Newcomb, 1953 p. 393). The theory states that there are factors that
negatively effect the relationship between (A) and (B) called "strains"
(Newcomb, 1953). When (A) is positive toward (B) and positive toward (X)
and (B) is positive toward both (A) and (X) there is symmetry or balance
to the relationship. If there is a positive and a negative either towards
(X) or each other the relationship begins to deteriorate (Newcomb, 1953).
The conclusion of his 1953 study is that "achievement of symmetry
can vary with the intensity of attitude toward (X) or the attraction toward
(B)" (Newcomb, 1953, p. 398). Whether the relationship is voluntary
or forced can act as a situational variable in this model. Newcomb (1953)
then states if attraction is reduced between (A) and (B), strain is then
limited mostly to the (X) variable (Newcomb, 1953). In his 1961 book The
Acquaintance Process, Newcomb expands upon his original theory. He breaks
the strains into categories to measure their effect on symmetry. He also
breaks symmetry into two categories; Individual System Orientation and
Collective System Orientation. In the Individual System, (A) attributes
attitudes to (B) about (X) and relates them to his own attitudes towards
(X). A Collective system is when both (A) and (B) have individual systems
and they assume that the other has created their own individual system
(Newcomb, 1961). The example he uses is "on the same day (A) sees
(B) kicking a dog and (B) sees (A) fondling the same dog, and if each
of them assumes that the other has observed him in the act" (Newcomb,
1961, p. 11). Newcomb (1961) theorizes that both (A) and (B) share a joint
dependence based on (X). When attitudes change or diminish towards (X)
an imbalance in the relationship occurs. His conclusion is that humans
will make changes during acquaintance to maintain a balance in the relationship.
Therefore, humans socialize themselves to maintain this symmetrical balance
within interpersonal relationships. When dealing with media in deployed
circumstances, military must ensure that the media does not try to befriend
them and must always create a professional environment. Laying expectations
out and setting "ground rules" is a beneficial measure relating
Altman and Sorrentino (1969) developed the social penetration theory,
a psychological step further into URT. Heath and Bryant (2000) cite Taylor,
Altman and Wheeler who say, "people determine the amount and quality
of disclosure they need or are comfortable using to get to know one another"
(1973, p. 42). Taylor, Altman and Sorrentino hypothesized that, "a
growth in interpersonal relationships results from interpersonal cost/rewards
factors, personality characteristics and situational determinant"
(1969, p. 325). The idea of cost and rewards is that people use a process
of evaluating cost and rewards to determine worthiness of the relationship.
Social penetration theory is useful for understanding the development
and deterioration of interpersonal relationships.
reduction theory's roots lie in psychology's penetration theory. The theory
has developed from a very vague theory concerning the basics of interpersonal
communications into a versatile operational theory that now has many uses.
In what appears to be the best representation of the new role of uncertainty
reduction theory, Kramer (1999) looks at motivation to uncertainty. Since
URT is such a basic principle, he creates a new theory called motivation
to reduce uncertainty. He begins by looking at what motivates a person
to reduce uncertainty. Kramer also considers people who don't have a desire
to reduce uncertainty in new relationships. An example would be a military
gate guard admitting media; URT is not likely to apply to that interpersonal
communication situation. Kramer's theory also proposes that there can
be both positive and negative motivations to reduce uncertainty. Kramer's
study finds that individuals have different levels of uncertainty in the
same situation. A veteran military beat reporter would be less likely
to be uncertain at a staff meeting or pre-deployment briefing than a newcomer
would. Kramer's research also breaks down information seeking into greater
detail. He categorizes information seeking into more specific terms and
also considers how incorrect information can still reduce uncertainty.
Maintaining and application of many theories of URT can significantly
aid in the understanding of the military and media relationship.
When intercultural communication study is applied in understanding the
military and media relationship, the intangibles of why there is a perceived
gap in the relationship can become clearer. Understanding the intercultural
communication aspects of the military helps outsiders understand the often
times intricate and high context cultural nature of working with the military.
Examination of the military and the media from this context helps insiders
discern and realize why the organization operates and communicates the
way it does from an intercultural perspective and how to better communicate
communication is a term which covers communication between people from
different cultures (Aldridge, 2002). Throughout the literature reviewed
for this paper, the term is used in a variety of ways that reflect internal
communication among members and external communication between cultures.
Each explanation is entirely valid, yet each is limited. Therefore, it
is helpful to pick from each to make a better sense of it all and these
concepts can be easily applied to our problems.
is a complex phenomenon and when communication takes place between two
cultures it doubles the complexity. Any messages transported across boundaries,
as in many other communications, are "coded" in one context
and then "decoded" in another. This process makes the likelihood
of miscommunication that much greater (Smith, 1966). Specific "code
rules" also come into effect, in that there are specific manners
of communicating that take into account norms when others address equal
or higher status individuals (Collier, 2000). The amount of coding and
translation that sometimes must occur when media and the military get
together is astounding. This problem could quite possibly be misinterpreted
to be that the military is lying or vice versa, when in fact it is a small
Understanding culture and how it relates to communication is essential
in first understanding ourselves and in understanding others. Communication
and culture influence each other reciprocally. The cultures from which
individuals come affect the way they communicate. The way individuals
communicate can often cause change in their cultures (Gundykunst, 1988).
The very mention that a "gap" exists between the military and
media may also influence communication before it even happens.
Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, two-world renowned communication researchers,
in the late 1930s developed a very useful theory entitled "The Sapir-Whorf
Hypothesis" (Berlo, 1960). The theory states that a person's language
will in some ways determine what the person sees, what he thinks about,
how he arrives at decisions, and how he will apply things overall. Sometimes
the media or military may have bias and judgments or ethnocentric thoughts
when dealing with each other and this can create barriers to communication.
Another step in understanding intercultural communication is to explore
the concept of culture. "Culture is just the way we do things around
here...Culture is the set of norms by which things are run - or simply
are" (Novinger, 2001, p. 14). Another explanation states that culture
is "the traditions, customs, norms, beliefs, values, and thought
patterning which are passed down from generation to generation" (Prosser,
1978, p.5). The Vietnam generation of correspondents and military leaders
may have created a perception for the current population and unfairly
biased them before relationships begin.
and roles in intercultural communication can also play a role in understanding
relationships explored in this paper. Dance states that a "role refers
to the set of expectations which group members share concerning the behavior
of a person who occupies a given position in the group" (1972, p.
106). Another example of this would be high- and low-context, which refers
to the amount of information that a person emits, both verbally and non-verbally.
This can vary from a high-context culture where background information
is understood, to a low-context culture where much of the background information
is unmistakable in an interaction (Nucci, 2000). People from a high-context
cultures, such as Japan, often send more information implicitly, have
a wider "network," and tend to stay well learned on many subjects.
People from low-context cultures, such as the United States, usually verbalize
much more background information, and tend not to be well informed on
subjects outside of their own interests. When military members communicate
with the media, the possibility exists that they will take for granted
how much the listener knows about the subject under discussion. In low-context
communication, the receiver will identify very little and must be spoon
fed much of the information. In high-context communication, the listener
is already "contexted" and does not need to be given much background
information (Heath & Bryant, 2000). Understanding these factors, it
is essential to institute education of each side in order to improve the
communication between the two.
The depth of an intimate relationship between two people or mediums is
determined by the type and amount of interpersonal communication that
takes place between them. Positive and open communication in an interpersonal
relationship promotes better understanding of each other, work that is
more efficient and of higher satisfaction than if the relationship is
strained (Samovar & Porter, 1985). Using interpersonal communication,
people influence, and are influenced by, the actions and statements of
others (Heath & Bryant, 2000). Thus, maintaining positive interpersonal
communication in the relationship between business and media should be
conducive to better media coverage of business events that could influence
Millar, and colleagues produced reports indicating that there are three
dimensions of communication in a relationship. These dimensions are usually
not evident on the first encounters in a relationship, but rather develop
over time. The communication dimensions are control, trust, and intimacy,
each of which is divided into three more definitive roles (as cited in
control is divided into roles titled redundancy (the degree of change
during message exchange), dominance (how much one participant can control
the relationship), and power (the ability to influence or restrict a participant's
behavior) (as cited in O'Hair, 1988). Control itself "is the need
to exert influence or power over others, and in turn, to accept influence
from others. It ranges from strong or complete control to no control"
(Ruffner & Burgoon, 1981, p. 29). Combining this definition with the
three roles of control, communication within an interpersonal relationship
will be positive if both parties are satisfied with the amount of control
they perceive they have. If the parties are dissatisfied with their amount
of control, there is a higher probability of struggle to gain more control.
is categorized into vulnerability (how vulnerable each partner is to the
other), reward dependability (how often one partner is rewarded for being
vulnerable), and confidence (whether one partner perceives a degree of
betrayal in the relationship) (as cited in O'Hair, 1988). In a trusting
relationship, partners acknowledge their dependence on each other and
their belief that the other partner will not take advantage of or exploit
them (Infante, Rancer, & Womack, 1997). When there is mutual trust
within an interpersonal relationship, there is "the growth of mutual
confidence and respect, as well as a lessening of defensive behavior and
suspicion" (Ruffner & Burgoon, 1981, p. 114). In a trusting relationship,
misunderstandings are less frequent and if there is a misunderstanding,
there is usually more effort toward resolution (Ruffner & Burgoon,
three components of intimacy are transferability (how much people outside
the relationship fulfill needs that should be fulfilled within the relationship),
attachment (the amount of affection in the relationship), and knowledge
(whether each partner can recognize the other partner's communication
efforts) (as cited in O'Hair, 1988). Intimate communication settings are
"characterized by relative permanency, trust, and increased self-disclosure
behaviors" (Ruffner & Burgoon, 1981, p. 210), with "trust
and self-disclosure being the most critical elements" (Ruffner &
Burgoon, 1981, p. 211). In an intimate relationship, partners rely on
each other to fulfill needs within the relationship (Infante et al, 1997).
As intimacy within a relationship grows, people learn more about each
other, thus allowing for more equal and honest disclosure of information
(Heath & Bryant, 2000).
building and promoting a positive relationship with the media should be
a priority in business. Because media so frequently influences the public,
the interpersonal communication between the business and the media should
assume the three aforementioned qualities: balanced control, mutual trust,
and intimacy that is reciprocal. A positive presence of these three qualities
will promote feedback and allow for more growth in the relationship.
According to Hall (2002), organizational communication involves the exchange
of messages to stimulate meaning within and between organizations and
their environments. It includes one-on-one communication, small group
communication, mass communication, and public communication. Organizations
should reflect the larger culture of their workers if they wish to manage
to Heath & Bryant (2000), people spend their lives in a variety of
organizations such as businesses and governmental agencies. Organizations
communicate with people inside and outside the organization through conversation,
documents, and newsletters. Through communication, people seek to achieve
individual and collective goals. Heath & Bryant continue, "An
organization's ability to achieve its goals depends on the ability of
key personnel to obtain information from outside" (p. 340). If an
organization does not have outside information, it may have a false sense
of security and increased uncertainty.
extent of harmony an organization has with key outside influences can
affect operations. To move toward harmony, an organization may communicate
in ways that can help shape the social reality by which outside influences
view it and the operational standards. An organization can increase trust
that it is acting in the interests of others by using two-way symmetrical
communication (Heath & Bryant, 2002).
Society cannot exist without people influencing one another's opinions
and behavior (Devito, 1986). People seek influence as well as exert it.
The relationship of influence between military public affairs practitioners
and the media is a fragile one. In order to draw accurate measures of
the media's influence on the public, research is generally focused on
a specific event and the repercussions of that event. However, military
public affairs must focus on more than just a specific event; they must
focus on long-term, two-way communication as a standard daily practice.
This helps assimilate reporters into the military mindset and gives them
a unique insight when writing or reporting on military issues.
Models that may predict the media's responses to military issues vary.
One of the earliest models that may be applied is the laws-based, drive-motive
paradigm. In 1940, Yale researchers began to advance this paradigm with
a series of studies.
research is as timely today as it was when it began because it may be
applied to the need to build ongoing media relations. As this model is
applied to the military/media relationship, it relies on the learning
theory. Simply defined, the learning theory uses a linear model that traces
who says what to whom with what effect (Lasswell, 1948). It can be reasoned
in developing the relationship that a message leads to learning through
repeated actions. In the case of public affairs and soliciting support
from the media, this argument forms the basis for measuring response to
educating journalists about military issues:
major basis for acceptance of a given opinion is provided by arguments
or reasons (obtained from a message) which, according to the individual's
own thinking habits, constitute "rational" or "logical"
support for the conclusion. In addition to supporting reasons, there are
likely to be other special incentives involving anticipated rewards and
punishments, which motivate the individual to accept or reject a given
opinion. (Hovland, Janis, & Kelly, 1953, p. 11)
Findings of this research show that a message is received because it captures
attention, and if it is understood, it leads to acceptance. Reporters
would accept the message if they believe it to be reasonable. To have
impact, a message must be retained, requiring that the receiver has the
ability and motivation to remember the information. If these factors fall
into place, the message leads to action. In the case of public affairs,
this action is the relationship with a reporter.
Military leaders use public affairs practices to keep mass media informed,
and to persuade them to adopt certain attitudes that support the goals
of those practices. (Baker, 1999) identifies a communication model that
may be applied to developing this relationship. The model includes self-interest,
entitlement, enlightened self-interest, and social responsibility. These
provide a conceptual structure that can be applied to understanding civilian
media and tailoring a program to developing a mutually beneficial relationship.
succeeding element of the model represents a moral "higher-ground"
than the one preceding. The self-interest model recognizes that media
outlets must "look out for number one." In news reporting, it
can be reasoned that each media outlet seeks to offer the most informative
and interesting stories. This fulfills self-interests because they are
competing for their advertisers and audience. The more people watch, the
more advertisers they can attract and the higher their profits.
entitlement model is much like the self-interest model but also adds the
assertion of legal rights (Nelson, 1994). In reporting on military issues,
the media asserts their right to have access to bases and facilities.
They also believe they represent the public's "right to know."
and Payne (1996) combine the preceding models into the enlightened self-interest
model. It is reasoned that by engaging in accurate reporting, media outlets
will do well financially and the audience will benefit from factual reporting.
This can also be defined by the total quality management theory in business
management. Simply put, an informed and happy customer means higher profits.
social responsibility model is separate and distinct from the previous
models and results from different intentions and motivations for reporting.
Social responsibility in the news media comes from a responsibility to
the public over self-interest, profit, or ratings. It is demonstrated
when rival media outlets combine resources, pool video, and even share
information so important issues receive the widest exposure. "Social
responsibility for the press includes a moral obligation to consider the
overall needs of society, personal sacrifice for the benefit of others,
and a stewardship toward humanity" (Lloyd, 1991).
understanding and supporting these models when developing media relations
programs, public affairs can take great strides towards gaining, and keeping,
strong media ties. Added to the equation media relations, it is arguable
that the more media outlets are supported in these ideals, the more likely
they are to ensure the military's special interests are supported.
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Rationale (Research Questions)
Prior to engaging in the benchmarking portion of this study, it is important
to understand what we mean when we seek to benchmark "success"
as it applies to media relations. We must also develop a baseline from
which the military stands on media relations. Our course is not to change
media relations but benchmark or find "best practices." If we
wished to overhaul media relations, we may choose to examine every area
of media relations including all media desires and all corporate or private
media relations techniques. For our study we have conducted a brief analysis
of each service's media relations doctrine or guidance along with a review
of current media relations techniques taught at the Defense Information
School in Fort Meade, Maryland. The first question posed in our research
Question 1: What Is It That Military Public Affairs Think They
Do, According To Doctrine?
After establishing military principles of media relations, it is important
to ask what the other side believes to be true. In the interest of time,
we have chosen to conduct a literature and current periodical and editorial
review of media opinions on military's job of handling media relations
and what it is they think we should do. The question posed as the second
step of our project goes as follows:
Question 2: What Are The Media's Attitudes, Opinions, And Desires
Of The Military?
The third and most significant portion of our study is to find out what
kinds of practices do other successful organizations follow in their media
relations campaigns. The subjectivity and lack of face validity of the
term "successful" is obvious and the authors concede that fact.
However, as this is an unscientific examination, we have made our best
effort to select organizations based on their perceived success in their
field of endeavor. The third question asked states:
Question 3: What Do Other Organizations And Corporations Do?
Finally, in the fourth question area, our team examines:
Question 4: How Can Findings From Q3 Help To Reduce The "Gulf
Of Media Relations?"
Rationale for examining the theories in the literature review is to provide
a baseline of understanding and use the theories to help better explain
why practices uncovered in benchmarking could be useful. The following
chart helps to identify where the theories can be applied usefully:
Theory Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Benchmarking X X
URT X X X X
Int. Cult. X X X X
Int. Pers. X X X X
Org. Comm X X X X
Mass Comm. X X X X
Return to Top
method was selected to answer the fundamental question of what types of
practices do other organizations use with success. A success is defined
as "a favorable or satisfactory outcome or result" (Webster,
1988, p.1136). The word "success" must be used carefully in
this study because there are many different, individual perceptions regarding
success. Thus prior to the examination, an important distinction was made.
The "success" we intend to measure is based not from whether
positive news stories result, or if the media really like us. The success
lies in whether or not our media relations meets or exceeds the mission
of providing accurate information with minimum delay in accordance with
privacy and security of service members.
organizations that fit into a variety of categories to lend validity to
our study to truly reflect benchmarking in its purist form. Because of
time constraints, this was done in lieu of conducting a scientific population
sample, complete with surveys. The variety ensures that if we can't find
"best practices" in the sense of the word, we will find more
ideas and examine them for application. The organizations examined included:
non-military government agencies, commercial for profit agencies, private
organizations, and non-profit organizations.
As stated in the literature review, the means we use to conduct benchmarking
is a hybrid of various techniques that identifies which functions to benchmark.
A series of steps is followed on the process of benchmarking. Our group
has entitled our process as "The Media Relations Flux Capacitor Approach."
The following steps were taken:
1) Identify and examine key media relations commonalities among services
and find out what media relations doctrine is applied for DoD.
2) Identify and examine our requirements against media desires and expectations.
3) Develop a set of criteria in order to examine the non-military organizations
4) Examine a variety of organizations and find out what they do for media
5) Compile the findings and evaluate their applicability.
benchmarking process created by the group lies in that we have used a
scientific model in a qualitative fashion. We have coded the functions
of media relations based off an examination of both the military and media
then used it to measure what other agencies do. The justification and
validity of our results lies not in that we have produced a set of data
that measures what we intended to measure, but that we measured the concepts
unearthed in the examination against requirements and desires.
The first step
in our hybrid process was to establish examination and dissection of media
relations techniques through non-military organizations against three
standard media relations pillars that we developed using brainstorming,
pre-examination of materials and the "BDTN Flux Capacitor."
The "BDTN Flux Capacitor" is a conceptual process of linking
media relations elements that Brian Davidson, Dan Carlson , Tracey Goff
and Neil Murphy invented. The name simply means the Brian, Dan, Tracey,
Neil media relations concept fuser and condenser.
If we chose to review every technical area that exists within media relations
throughout the companies we reviewed, it would prove time prohibitive.
We would also have to examine practices that are used in non-military
agencies we are not authorized to use. Therefore, we developed the conceptual
diagrammatic process below:
Once the concepts
and information floating around regarding media relations was dissected,
obvious patterns emerged and formed three main pillars of criteria used
to examine the non-military organization's media relations practices.
The criteria contain the elements which created the pillars. The Pillars
are contained in the graphic that follows:
The elements contained in the
3 pillars are listed below:
Understanding of honesty / integrity
Airing grievances (Corrections of media / military vs. military /media)
-TRAINING / EXECUTION:
Privacy and sensitive information
Explanation of purpose (mission)
Examination / Explanation of roles
Security / Accuracy / Propriety / Policies
Dissemination of information (News Releases)
On / Off Record
Press Briefings / News Conferences
Timing of releases
Coding of information (style and info in press releases)
Media Support (logistics / food / travel / clothing / shelter)
Providing the right medium (film / JPEG/ Audio / B-Roll)
Integration of media into events / Access to operations (embeds / pools
The Organizations reviewed
In the RQ3 section, no organizational names are used to protect proprietary
concerns on the part of the organizations reviewed . Codes were assigned
to identify organizations by their particular niche rather than by name,
as many companies have expressed the desire to remain anonymous.
With this interest in mind, we have named the organizations by letters
of the alphabet. For example, the major computer chip corporation is known
as Company A. A brief description of the companies examined follows.
Company A is a large aluminum producer with global sales to large manufacturing
corporations for final product manufacturing and sales.
Company B is a high volume global producer of embedded control applications
in the consumer, automotive, office automation, communications, and industrial
Company C is a supplier of military semiconductors. The company is a subsidiary
of a larger semiconductor manufacturer.
Company D is a military weapons manufacturer. The company is a subsidiary
of a large defense-manufacturing contractor.
Company E describes and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, toward
a mission to conserve and wisely manage the nation's coastal and marine
Company F is a world-wide corporation that found its roots in 1885 with
the invention of a thermo-electric regulator. Today, this company does
business in aerospace, electronics, home and building control, industrial
control, polymers, and chemicals.
Company G is a nation-wide company and is the country's oldest and largest
not-for-profit Healthcare Management Organization. It serves more than
eight million people in nine states and provides an integrated healthcare
delivery system to employees and their families of member businesses and
corporations. Their services include a wide range of preventative health
care and hospital, medical and pharmacy services.
Company H is one of the oldest and largest police departments in the nation
and relies heavily on media relations in conveying their "community
policing" efforts. These efforts rely on their messages reaching
their intended audience in high crime areas. A healthy media relationship
is a must for this organization and the media is highly regarded.
Finally, according to Cutlip
(1971), "A specific program's effectiveness can be evaluated by measuring
in terms of four dimensions. They are audience coverage, audience response,
communications impact, and process of influence." In order for a
program to produce results, it must reach the target audience. The nature
of the audience response, positive or negative, will affect the program
results. Communications impact must be evaluated for discernible and lasting
effects. The process of influence, channels and mechanisms of persuasion,
determines how effective the program will be to initiate the social processes
necessary to influence the opinions and behavior of its target audience.
The most important factors in media relations programs that we used in
examining the organizations are as follows:
-Free flow of honest information
-Top executives answering questions
-Competent public relations personnel
-Define what is news
-Prompt responses to the media
-Be clear and concise
-Share the bad news too
-" Increase personal contact
Likely items of media interest:
-Annual reports (earnings)
-Research and development breakthroughs
-Plant or office construction
-Change in leadership
-Wage and benefits
-Contract awards and new business
-New product lines and new services
-Scholarships and aid to education
-Participation in community affairs
-Contribution to charities
-Speeches to business leaders
-New advertising campaign
Return to Top
Benchmarking increases the likelihood of success,
in that if it were not already successful, it would not have been singled
out as a best practice. The significance of selecting multiple agencies,
corporations, and companies also increases the likelihood that "the
best" will emerge through comparison and contrast, which is qualitative
in nature. There is also, however, no guarantee that it will work. If
an agency chooses to use benchmarking to identify better or best practices,
it should always evaluate its outcomes.
A standard evaluation system already being used within the military public
affairs establishment is based on outputs, outgrowths, and outcomes. To
establish a base line of what the military thinks it does in terms of
media relations, it was necessary to examine each service and then consolidate
thoughts to use and examine other agency media relations practices against
our criteria of people, training, and equipment.
RQ1: What The Military Does In Media Relations
Below, the information gained in the study of military organizations is
presented by each service and concludes with a summation of the DoD directive:
United States Army Media Relations
The U.S. Army Public Affairs Program fulfills the Army's obligation to
keep the American people and the Army informed and helps to establish
the conditions that lead to confidence in America's Army and its readiness
to conduct operation in peacetime, conflict, and war. Every member of
the Army team contributes to effective Public Affairs. The soldier is
the most effective communicator of the Army story. The primary Public
Affairs functional areas are command information, public information,
and community relations.
Commanders maximize the opportunities that print
media offer to increase confidence in and visibility for the Army. An
advantage of print media is that readers can refer to articles in detail
later. A drawback is the lack of immediate feedback.
Army commands compete with civilian organization for civilian broadcast
coverage on other than breaking news. Internal radio and television assets
can be used to ease the effort to conduct Public Affairs sessions.
Accredited news media representatives may visit
those areas of an installation normally open to the public when the subject
matter is of local interest or deals with news events that happen without
prior planning or knowledge and the information is releasable. Coverage
of subject having potential controversy or national level interest with
is coordinated through channels to the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs.
Commanders should host an annual media day to encourage
area news media representatives to visit their installations to establish
or renew contacts with news media representatives. Army personnel are
encouraged to speak with the media factually, candidly, and fully about
unclassified matters on which they have personal knowledge and expertise.
Public release of information on injured or deceased personnel will be
made as soon as possible, within Privacy Act constraints, after the local
casualty assistance officer has confirmed official notification of next-of-kin.
Use of the word "casualty" is discouraged.
Army recruiting receives more media coverage that
any other branch of the military. The stories do not always reflect topics
the Army would choose to cover. It is our role to provide media with story
ideas that communicate messages that will shape the positive perception
of the Army.
United States Air Force Media Relations
The purpose of the Air Force media relations program is to achieve and
maintain public trust, support for mission requirements, and global influence
and deterrence. A pro-active relationship between public affairs practitioners
at all levels, from the smallest unit to the Secretary of the Air Force,
can help overcome the challenge of balancing the public's "right
to know" and safeguarding national security interests. It is day-to-day
Public Affairs and media relations that prevents miscommunication and
allows for accurate, timely information about military matters to reach
the American public.
The objectives of Air Force media relations are
to develop and maintain methods to reach target audiences with command
messages, deploy time-sensitive information, convey Air Force core competencies,
and target media strategies. The Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Director is the release authority for all media activities regarding issues
that have national or international implications. All Air Force Public
Affairs personnel must comply with the spirit and the letter of the "full
disclosure/minimum delay" standards to ensure rapid, accurate, and
continuous flow of information to the public. This delivery of information
1. Presenting information professionally, simply, and honestly.
2. Accurate, prompt and factual release of information.
3. Confining information to the field of expertise of subject matter experts.
4. Avoiding the release of hypothetical and speculative information.
5. Reflecting Air Force Policy.
Air Force policy and the Freedom of Information
and Privacy Acts require the prompt and accurate disclosure of information
to the public, excluding lawful exemptions.
The release of information concerning operational subjects is done by
the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs director only after coordination
with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense Public Affairs director.
This information includes, but is not limited to alert status, deployments,
intelligence or reconnaissance activities, movement of units, personnel
wounded in combat, casualties, and weapons systems.
The media is the primary communication channel to
the public. Their need for rapid, accurate information requires immediate,
fair response by Air force officials. Whenever possible, bona fide media
representatives should be granted access to installations and market material.
Bad news should never be concealed from the media and all information
should be free from technical jargon and acronyms.
News releases and media conferences must include
both print and broadcast media equally. These are the most common ways
to deliver information to the media and pre-empt anticipated queries.
Responses to media queries and requests for interviews should be handled
in a timely and accurate manner.
United States Navy Media Relations
The Public Affairs Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps uses SECNAVINST
5720.44 to standardize rules throughout their respective services. Within
this instruction, there are chapters and sub-chapters that detail interacting
with media. The two basic tenets in dealing with the news media are that
information be factual and that the media be treated fairly and equitably.
Navy and Marine Corps command public affairs officers (PAO) are required
to release adverse news candidly and rapidly, provide reporters all pertinent
facts, and be available for questions.
The Navy and Marine Corps Public Affairs uses several
mediums to disseminate information to the news media and the public. Among
them are news releases, news advisories, news conferences, media availabilities,
and media embarkations. News releases and news advisories are sent to
media to give them information in advance of a situation that could attract
attention both publicly and within the command. They can be viewed as
an invitation for the media to cover something that is happening on the
base or within the command. News conferences and media availabilities
are opportunities for the media to have question and answer sessions with
a military spokesperson or newsmaker. Conferences are used for when a
command has something significant to announce that would be inadequately
explained if disseminated by other means. Media availabilities put a Navy
or Marine Corps newsmaker in direct contact with the media where a variety
of topics can be covered and questions can be asked.
One of the most effective ways the Navy and Marine Corps interacts with
the media is using embarkations on Navy vessels. These opportunities give
media representatives the opportunity to see, hear, and feel the Navy
and Marine Corps story using the words and actions of the Sailors and
Marines. Media representatives who take part in an embarkation generally
leave with a lasting impression after participating in the direct interaction
with military members.
Each of the release forms has a purpose. Some of
them are to inform the media and the public current situations or upcoming
events that are available to the public. Others, such as the embarkations,
are used to let the media and the public see the services in action.
The Navy Public Affairs Department strives to maintain
positive media relations. Unless otherwise preempted, information is disseminated
in a timely and accurate manner to those who request it. When responding
to an inquiry from or issuing a statement to news media representatives,
there are several steps taken before any information is released. The
PAO first obtains information from a variety of sources, usually the unit
or activity involved. Then an analysis of the information is done to ensure
security and to put the information into terminology that is understandable
to the audience. The PAO must then receive permission to release the information
from the appropriate releasing authority.
The basic responsibility of Public Affairs is to communicate a message
to an audience through a particular media. However, public affairs is
more than writing a news release. It is communication that will actually
achieve the desired level of awareness in the audience.
United States Marine Corps Media Relations
When the Marines established the Marine Corps Public Relations Division
in 1941, a sign was placed on the desk of Colonel Robert Denig, the first
director of Marine Corps public affairs. "If the public becomes apathetic
about the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps will cease to exist" (HQMC,
1999, p.9). Since the development of Marine Corps public affairs, that
quote reminds Marines about the value the media have in their existence
and the critical nature of the relationship.
Marine doctrinal publications on general public affairs are provided by
the Department of the Navy through Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Instructions.
Instructions regarding rules and orders concerning the inner working of
media relations practices are fairly standard. However, the Marine Corps
produces its own campaign plan and media skills handbook, and it develops
its own style of media relations along with the SECNAV instructions. Along
with an examination of this book and the Secretary of the Navy Instructions,
a reader can understand Marine Corps media relations better. Many people
throughout the media and military cite the Marine Corps for being proficient
in dealing with the media. From the examination, this may lie in many
areas, but is more apparent in the way the Marine Corps conducts media
escorts and training of the media.
The Media Skills Training Guide states, "the
best approach is to be proactive and plan your approach to public communication
actions as carefully as you would plan any military operation" (HQMC,
1997, p.5). Continuing on, the publication states that the media relations
representative must take into account deadlines, time and space limitations
and help inexperienced reporters. The publication also lists functions
of media relations representatives that include: advising, researching,
assisting, arranging for interviews and media, monitoring interviews,
liaising, and providing after action reviews for the media and the command.
Colonel Fred Peck, former assistant director of
Marine Corps public affairs, sums up how Marines often cultivate their
relationship with the media.
We've tended to be very open in our dealings with the press. We basically
'Come on down.' Our best public relations is the naked event. Come and
see us. Watch us perform. Hopefully, we will perform well, and (the media
will) then tell the American public about it." (Shanahan, 1995, p.
The Marines tend to take a democratic style of interacting
with the media and generally listen to their concerns, as they understand
that it is essential in a relationship. Finally, the Marines believe that
a happy medium can be met with the media to ensure that the mission is
The future success of the Marine Corps depends on two factors: first,
an efficient performance of all duties to which its officers and men may
be assigned; second, promptly bringing this efficiency to the attention
of the proper officials of the Government and the American people"
(MDET, 2002, p. 2).
Consolidation of Service Media Relations priorities
As evidenced, from the examination of the four services presented above,
a variety of considerations enters into conducting a media relations program.
The most comprehensive examination of media relations practices uncovers
a variety of techniques and measures intended to ensure mission success.
However, one particular directive illustrates many important tasks that
tie all four service regulations and practices up nicely. DoD Directive
5122.5, published by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
includes a statement of DoD Principles for assisting news media entitled
"The Nine Principles of Combat Coverage." The nine elements
consistently set high expectations for providing the media with access
to the battlefield and events and accurate information (see Appendix A).
Overall, the principles listed above, along with the elements presented
on each service, provide a solid foundation to enable the examination
of media desires and to benchmark the processes of other organizations
in coordination with the criteria selected for examination of people,
training and equipment.
RQ2: What Are The Media Attitudes, Opinions,
And Desires Of The Military?
An important consideration in developing continuity in media relations
is considering what the media expects and needs from military public affairs.
Once those needs and expectations are understood they can be used to tailor
a media relations plan for each type of outlet including national and
local print, radio, and television news.
Based on a telephone interview with a highly respected
journalist, Candace Kovner Bel Air, an Emmy award winning reporter, anchor,
and executive producer with CNN, Newsweek, and Stations Radio Network,
the examination of materials and articles is enriched. "Every reporter
has an agenda, and public affairs professionals should too." According
to Bel Air, for an effective media relationship, public affairs practitioners
must understand what makes news and how to approach the media.
What makes news?
The media's expectations of public affairs regarding
what makes news includes six elements that dictate what information is
covered and what is not. In most cases, news encompasses multiple forms
of each of these elements. The more elements a story includes, the more
important the story.
1. Timeliness: Nothing beats breaking news. These stories command front
page attention with newspapers and lead air time in radio and on television.
It is also important to draw a distinction between hard news and feature
2. Proximity: Local media outlets are interested in local news or news
with a local angle.
3. Conflict: Like it or not, conflict, especially when it involves military
operations, makes interesting news.
4. Prominence: Even common events, if they involve a person of prominence
or fame, are newsworthy. The military flies operations all over the world
daily, but if a particular flight involves a well-known figure, the media
will probably be interested.
5. Consequences: Any event that impacts others is worthy of news coverage.
The more people who are potentially affected, the bigger the story.
6. Human interest: Reporters are interested in people. This is one of
the strongest elements of news. Although a story may be about new equipment
or weapons systems, playing-up personal elements may help get the desired
coverage from the media.
Approaching the media
Once a media plan clearly defines what types of stories make news and
may interest producers, reporters, and editors, best methods to get those
stories to the media should be outlined.
1. Know the media: Each type of media has different requirements in presenting
a story and deciding what is newsworthy. When a story warrants broad coverage,
a press conference may be the best way to get the information to the widest
2. Get to the point: Just like military public affairs professionals,
reporters face deadlines and demands daily. Whether calling, faxing, or
e-mailing responses to the media, give them the most important information
right up front.
3. Be prepared, or be ready to run around: If a reporter is assigned to
a specific story, the office releasing information may be asked to provide
background information and arrange for interviews, photographs, and video
footage. One of the most common mistakes made by many public affairs offices
is to release important information in the form of a news release without
having made arrangements for follow-up interviews, photographs, and video.
Choosing the right media
Understanding how to target news and information to the proper media outlet
is crucial for any successful media relations plan. Although some "hard"
news stories may appeal to all venues, how those stories are reported
will vary. Some information should be addressed specifically to print,
radio, or television news. Public affairs programs should understand and
differentiate between each.
1. Print: What makes print media unique is its ability to provide in-depth
commentary in news articles. Newspapers and magazines have a longer shelf
life than other media, and can incorporate maps, charts, statistics, and
graphics into a story.
2. Radio is generally not the first choice for covering military stories
by base-level public affairs offices. However, when speed counts they
do have the fastest capability to produce and air information. This is
especially valuable when news impacts the safety of people in a community.
3. Television: Television's strength is its ability to blend a story and
pictures to create compelling and visual impressions. Generally, this
is the media to whom most public affairs offices tailor their media relations
Final note; unintended consequences
Knowing from the onset of a story what outcome is expected from a reporter
is no guarantee that the story will not take on a different form or cover
other areas. Public affairs practitioners must remember that reporters
often take advantage of other resources for information in addition to
information provided from the military. Occasionally, a story may encompass
a larger or smaller subject area than was originally intended. This is
especially true when dealing with a controversial issue or a subject with
national implications. Continuing to support media's requests for information
helps ensure a balanced and accurate story.
Twentieth Century Fund Task Force Member, Richard
Halloran, sums up many of the aforementioned points.
Military people really don't know much about the press and television.
Few military officers have done the factual research needed to determine
whether their scant experience with the press is typical or atypical;
few have done the content analyses to see whether their impressions can
withstand scrutiny; few have examined the First Amendment, the development
of press and television, or the roles that gatherers of news have played
in the military history of the U.S. (Naparstek, 1993, p. 5).
RQ3: What The Non-Military Organizations Are
The following observations were taken from the nine best organizations
examined. In keeping with the explanation presented in the methods section,
the organizations are assigned generic names.
Company A is a large aluminum producer with global sales to large manufacturing
corporations for final product manufacturing and sales.
Company A utilizes communications with employees and the surrounding communities
to create a value of their products to society. Company A works to create
a positive image within the surrounding community focusing on financial
impact, public policy, community involvement and environmental responsibility.
The company believes that a clear, consistent strategic plan will result
in contributions and commitment by employees, families, and external customers.
Face-to-face communications with internal audience is essential to the
success of institutional outputs that will be shared with the external
audiences and community leaders. As part of the external audience communication
strategy, the company targets local media, national trade and technical
publications and organizations, and key visits and inquiries. The company
maintains a positive presence with government and public policy boards
but does not become involved in political action committees. Media relations
are tied to public affairs, marketing, community relations and employee
communications to create a valued communications strategic plan.
Company A utilizes a variety of meetings to communicate, face-to-face
with employees. Additional communications include web-based information,
cable television, newsletters, magazines and videos.
Training & Execution
External customers are targeted through local media stories, community
involvement, environmental activism, participation in public policy and
sponsorship of community activities.
Company B is a high volume global producer of embedded
control applications in the consumer, automotive, office automation, communications,
and industrial control market.
Company B seeks to build credibility for current and future products through
direct communications with internal and external audiences and customers.
The company utilizes press releases and conferences, tours and trade show
demonstrations to communicate selected messages and cultivate relationships
with potential customers.
Company B plans and conducts global conferences and media events for immediate
coverage of product information. Traveling to major international locations
provides maximum exposure. The company also targets trade publications
for additional communication exposure.
Training & Execution
Public relations tactics are coordinated with production schedules so
to reinforce customer satisfaction with product availability.
Company C is a supplier of military semiconductors.
The company is a subsidiary of a larger semiconductor manufacturer.
Company C focuses on internal and external audiences support the company's
communications and marketing strategies. The company's goal is to be viewed
as the preferred supplier of military semiconductors. The company targets
communication opportunities with trade publications, local and national
media, and commercial communications.
Company C works with their marketing staff to create advanced technology
information products that will support efforts to achieve communication
outlets with publication editors.
Training & Execution
Company C schedules press releases and interviews that focus on advanced
Company D is a military weapons manufacturer. The
company is a subsidiary of a large defense-manufacturing contractor.
Company D seeks to support customer, media and public interest in their
weapons production. The company has a communications strategy that incorporates
media relations, community relations, and customer relations.
Company D implements their communications strategy through press releases,
press conferences, community involvement and marketing.
Training & Education
The company specifically targets interest in still and video images of
weapons product lines. The company maintains a digital web based media
relations library that to provide rapid availability to media requests.
Company E describes and predicts changes in the
Earth's environment, toward a mission to conserve and wisely manage the
nation's coastal and marine resources.
Government officials and civic leaders are provided occasions to visit
Company E. These visits provide them the opportunity to mingle informally
with their constituents and receive hands-on education about Company E's
operations. These visits reinforce the support of the officials for the
programs Company E uses or could become involved.
Company E gives full cooperation to the media to generate positive publicity
of events. Media access is provided to the event site, to company personnel
and to government and private individuals involved in the ceremony. The
media is provided an opportunity to educate the public through written
and visual accounts of what is taking place and what is planned for the
Company E utilizes public ceremonies such commissioning ceremonies, public
open houses, press conferences, and news releases as important tools to
inform and educate the public, government officials and the media about
Training & Execution
Company E recognizes that the primary goal of any public event is to generate
positive publicity and to instill confidence in government officials,
community leaders and the local public. Such activities provide Company
E with an opportunity to give local decision makers and leaders active
roles in marking the company's progress. These events also provide an
excellent opportunity for education through first-person demonstrations
provided by NWS managers and staff.
Through participation, Company E staff gain practical experience in the
public relations end of jobs to which they may move in the future. They
also have an opportunity to show their expertise in the operation of new
equipment and the interpretation of new data.
Company F is a world-wide corporation
that found its roots in 1885 with the invention of a thermo-electric regulator.
Today, this company does business in aerospace, electronics, home and
building control, industrial control, polymers, and chemicals.
This company relies on regional public affairs offices in Europe, Asia
the United States to tailor media relations to their specific region.
These offices employ people who are specialists in each of corporation's
unique industries to operationalize corporate policies based on the needs
of the industry and region. Each of these people maintain short- and long-term
plans that address issues including employment, production, research and
development, environmental, health, and education. These media relations
plans are submitted to corporate public affairs managers who combine,
budget for, and approve proposals based on the local, regional, national,
and international impact of each unique issue.
This company communicates with employees and other interested people and
organizations through a weekly company newsletter that is produced at
corporate headquarters with overall company information and then passed
to regional offices where regional-specific information is included before
distribution. Newsletters are available in both printed and intranet versions.
This newsletter forms the cornerstone of media relations and accompanies
all press packs, news releases, and media advisories.
Training and Execution
Corporate policy requires all employees through division manager level
to be trained in media, crisis, and public communication. This annual
training includes interview techniques, public speaking, local government,
and crisis prevention. Although the regional public affairs offices are
responsible for planning and implementation of all programs, the division
managers are required by policy to keep their public affairs representatives
informed of all division operations.
Company G is a nation-wide
company and is the country's oldest and largest not-for-profit Healthcare
Management Organization. It serves more than eight million people in nine
states and provides an integrated healthcare delivery system to employees
and their families of member businesses and corporations. Their services
include a wide range of preventative health care and hospital, medical
and pharmacy services.
This company relies on eight regional public affairs offices within the
United States to deliver area specific and client specific internal and
external programs. Their public and media relations doctrine stems from
the needs of their members and a social obligation to provide benefit
for the communities in which they operate and the health care industry.
This company's primary media relation's tool is their active involvement
in national, state, and local political organizations that advocate accessible,
quality medical programs.
Training and Execution
Company and federal policy requires all public and media communication
programs to be based on present laws of full disclosure regarding the
principles, structure, and operations of healthcare programs.
Company H is one of the oldest
and largest police departments in the nation and relies heavily on media
relations in conveying their "community policing" efforts. These
efforts rely on their messages reaching their intended audience in high
crime areas. A healthy media relationship is a must for this organization.
This organization maintains a 24-hour media relations center designed
to provide media with accurate and timely information 24 hours-a-day.
Individuals are required to meet with the media and receive extensive
training in department policies regarding release of information. Media
are routinely educated on the legal aspects involving release of information
as it pertains to legal rights, rights of victims and minors and in jeopardizing
investigations. An extreme emphasis is placed on ensuring that media are
never denied the right to report on whatever they see at crime scenes
and accidents etc.
The majority of information provided to the media is in standardized format
and released from a central issuing point.
Training and execution
All officers receive yearly training in media relations and are provided
with a comprehensive rules and procedures packet so that they fully understand
all regulations regarding media. Since officers routinely interact with
media, and both parties understand the nuances of accomplishing their
mission, a mutual respect is gained.
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in this study lies in the fact that media relations is neither a science
nor an art. The mere concept that relations occur between organizations
that are managed by people, significantly contributes to the inability
to accurately measure quantitatively and make it a science. The media
relations phenomena is both objective and subjective, which creates intersubjectivity.
The press and the
armed forces are two completely different cultures. Our examination of
intercultural communication finds that. The military breeds conformity,
authority, discipline, group loyalty, and cohesion. The press is generally
prides themselves as individualistic, independent, competitive, and suspicious
of authority. Because the military is an extremely hierarchical institution,
its functions differ greatly from what many media representatives are
accustomed. Better understanding and handling of these differences can
improve the relationship.
Good science is
good art you say? If we wanted to apply science to improving our media
relations in a systematic fashion, we run the risk of engaging in cultivating
propaganda. A "laws" approach would tell us that systematic
research of this nature may mirror that of studies conducted on propaganda
by Hovland, Janis and Kelley in 1935. In the studies, Hovland and his
associates examined the source, message, channel, and receiver and how
they could leverage the influence to increase its significance in persuasion
(Infante et al, 1997, p.73).
Therefore, the conscious
decision not to use a scientific method was made in our research since
it could impact credibility that is essential in a personal relationship
akin to the relationship we share with the media.
Trust requires both
members of a relationship to be trusting and trustworthy. By trusting,
people admit that they are dependent on another and that they believe
the partner will not exploit them or take advantages of their trust"
(Infante et al, p. 284). In maintaining this trust, we examine best practices
in improving the effectiveness and productiveness of the relationship
and not using science to influence media.
A commonality between
media relations used by some of the non-military organizations and military
media relations is the use of news releases and press kits to inform and
educate the media about upcoming events. When Company E has an event that
warrants media coverage, they send out press information several weeks
prior to the event. When military installations have a scheduled event,
news releases and press kit are sent far enough in advance of the event
to determine which media outlets will attend.
the organizations and the military include the escorting of media to the
event and the type of access given to the media. When Companies invite
the media to cover an event, it appears that they arrive at their own
discretion. However, unlike many companies, the military contacts media
outlets a few days prior to the event to set up the meeting location and
time, thus allowing the military to escort the media to the event in an
At commercial events,
the media receives full access to the event, personnel, and government
and civil leaders that attend. In general, the military monitors the media,
keeping them centrally located during many events, which may increase
distrust and uncertainty by the media. The media is not usually given
the opportunity to question all military personnel, and questioning of
government and civilian leaders may sometimes take the form of a media
Prior to Sept. 11,
2001, military installations more readily allowed media to cover ceremonies,
groundbreakings, and other base events. Since then, DoD has imposed stringent
security restrictions on military installations. These restrictions are
designed to safeguard personnel, equipment, and items pertaining to national
security that are located on the installation. However, this also decreases
the likelihood of meeting the public affairs mission.
Both national and
international companies seem to share common principles that form the
cornerstone of their media relations plans. The first of these principles
recognizes the media's ability to influence the public. Focusing on both
long- and short-term communication, corporate public affairs practitioners
strive to offer media representatives insight regarding the positive impact
of that company's operations on the public and community. Doctrinally,
the military does not have this luxury.
This ideal stems from the learning theory in communication where messages
and message reinforcement provide the intended recipient in-depth and
working knowledge of a specific idea. By developing this relationship
with reporters, it is believed that the coverage and impact of potential
negative stories is lessened because media representatives already have
a working knowledge of a company's policies, doctrine, and concern for
the public. In addition, this helps public affairs representatives build
a reputation of honesty and openness. Military public affairs practitioners
may use some of the techniques used in the civilian market to help educated
and gain the confidence of local media. However, in a deployed situation,
where reporters arrive from all over the world, there is little time to
develop comprehensive relations.
This principal is
addressed in general military public affairs regulations and guidance
in the form of programs that are designed to immerse members of the media
into the military mindset. These programs are events such as embarkations,
incentive flights, facility tours, and honorary memberships into military
units. The military has made strides in improving this relationship and
may explore further measures to educate the media and gain a better working
experience. One item that the military generally ignores is visiting publishers
and other media outlets to gain a better understanding of their practices.
This may also be applied.
common to media relations within the civilian public affairs realm is
the belief that the media, and ultimately the public, have a "right
to know" information regarding the impact of a company on local,
state, national and international levels. Drawing from the communication
model of self-interest, entitlement, enlightened self-interest, and social
responsibility, this public affairs principal appeals to the media's obligation
to keep the public informed. Military media relations doctrine of "maximum
exposure with minimum delay" can be tied to this theory, but can
fall short of fulfilling the media's expectations due to operational security
The Department of
Defense has doctrine to dictate much how media relations are performed
within the services. With this, the ultimate audience is the citizens
of the United States. They pay taxes to maintain a military to protect
and defend the Constitution of the United States.
In contrast, corporations also have internal plans to control how media
relations are performed within the company. Their ultimate audience is
the workers and investors who support the day-to-day operations that allow
the corporation to exist. These differences are most noted in application
of media messages.
communication plans emphasize the need to change public opinion to invest
in and support their operations. Their plans also include an inoculation
effect by establishing and maintaining a strong community influence. Conversely,
DoD organizations are not in the business to change public opinion. DoD
media messages are designed to simply provide maximum accurate information
in a timely manner; maximum disclosure with minimum delay.
The press and the
military have played vital roles in American democracy since the founding
of the nation. A dysfunctional relationship between these two Constitutional
entities is advantageous for neither themselves, nor the public that they
are supposed to serve.
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