|Public Affairs Crisis
In A Multi-Service Atmosphere
paper analyzes military public affairs crisis management skills in a multi-service
atmosphere and proposes a model as a basis for further research in ensuring
clear, quick, accurate and specific communication. It addresses the lack
of guidance and adequate understanding of joint operations in accomplishing
public affairs actions in crisis situations overseas through the perspectives
of the organizational, intercultural, and mass communication theory. Serving
as a case study is the incident involving an EA-6B Prowler, an electronic
warfare jet, near Cavalese, Italy, which led to the death of 20 passengers
aboard a ski gondola. Poor cross-service crisis management plans, operationalized
on five levels, is shown to have an effect on the crisis communication
response by the military services based on three levels of measure.
E. W. Brody
(1991) defines crises as a "decisive turning point in a condition or state
of affairs. Crises occur where issues are neglected or otherwise mishandled.
Crises produced by disasters should not create surprises" (pp. 175-176).
Contrasting research includes characterizations of "a major, unpredictable
event that has potentially negative results" (Guth, 1995, p. 124). The
fact that an incident or emergency eventuates a crisis is adopted for the
purpose of this paper.
overseas serve as the foundation of military servicesí capacity for pragmatic
training. Where training scenarios attempt to capture every possible abstract
of war, the plausibility of mishap-induced crises exists and requires detailed
public affairs planning. The lack of such planning in the EA-6B accident
in Italy developed into a communication response crisis plagued by the
absence of definitive guidance and fettered communication.
communication theory submits public affairs communication rationale during
a crisis in a multi-service environment. Structural-functional systems
theory addresses the intricacies of information networks and levels of
command making up organizational communication. Anxiety/uncertainty management
theory (Gudykunst, 1995) aims to diminish anxiety and uncertainty across
intercultural groups while promoting a better understanding. The means
by which information is disseminated and its planning utility for communicating
choice messages is investigated through the diffusion of innovation theory
research is applied to the four-phase crisis management model of Gonzalez-Herrero
and Pratt (1995) in forming a crisis management model that incorporates
the five operational levels of the independent variable. The four
phases of the crisis management process include: issues management,
planning-prevention, the crisis, and post-crisis. Exercising theoretical
perspectives, the crisis management model (Table 1) serves as a basis for
organizations throughout the Department of Defense to assess current crisis
management practices and implement appropriate measures for strengthening
or building a relationship with those agencies for which they will become
dependent on in a time of crises.