There will always be situations in which public
affairs must assume its gatekeeping role in releasing information to the
media about accidents, incidents, or operations. PA must effectively
use Uncertainty Reduction Theory to facilitate the role of the military
educating itself about media operations and vice versa to establish pre-existing
relationships, which will pay dividends during a crisis. PA can use
agenda setting to focus public opinion towards the military spin of any
story. This plan requires the release of good or bad information.
Unfavorable news items create opportunities to state how the situation
can be prevented or improved upon in the future.
Public affairs must make a commitment to learn the needs of civilian media before the next major crisis. PA must develop a close working relationship with the media before a problem develops. This relationship reduces uncertainty on both sides and allows for more objective reporting. Wildermuth (1992) suggests that more research on this “education solution” may be necessary but concedes that only time will tell.
Like the Maginot Line of World War II, the military public affairs gatekeeping role can be penetrated. PA professionals must understand the media’s mission in order to respond appropriately. Proper use of agenda setting techniques, Uncertainty Reduction Theory, and Fayol’s bridge can help preserve the military’s public image and maintain control of the flow of information through their gates.