Two surveys were designed to measure the perception of military public affairs according to commanding officers
(level of command), military public affairs professionals, internal publics and the media. The participants will be
further broken down within each of these four categories. The sub-categories of military public affairs
professionals will include civilians, officers and enlisted, randomly selected from all branches of services and the
Department of Defense using a random numbers table. The internal public participants will be further selected from
family members, active duty (both officer and enlisted), retirees and DoD civilians from all branches of the military
and the Department of Defense. The media participants will include representatives from major newspapers
(managing editors), and radio and television general managers. The media participants will be selected from
representatives who are within a 50-mile radius of a military installation as well as selected national media
representatives based on ratings shares. This methodology will be used to answer our fundamental research
question: "What are the perceptions of the function of the military public affairs professional by commanding
officers, the media, the internal military audience, and the public affairs practitioner?"
A mini convenience sample of three open-ended questions was conducted among 15 military public
affairs professionals, 15 internal public members and 5 military commanders. Responses
from this survey became the bases for expanding into the second questionnaire.
The second survey was prepared with 10 questions to determine the perception of the command, media, internal public
and military public affairs professionals on the role and function of Military Public Affairs.
Perception of the job and function of military public affairs professionals.
The first questionnaire used is based on an instrument developed by members of the Department of Defense
Joint Course in Communication Class 98-C. The questionnaires consisted of three open-ended questions
regarding the job and function of military public affairs in relation to the command, media, the internal public, and
military public affairs professionals themselves.
The second questionnaire is an expansion of the first and is based on an instrument developed by members of the
Department of Defense Joint Course in Communication Class 98-C. The measurement scale used for the second
survey is based on the Likert 5-point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
Participants will be asked to indicate on a 5-point scale their knowledge of military public affairs and its impact on their
The goal of this project is to compare the perceptions of the function of public affairs as seen by commanding officers,
the media, and military public affairs practitioners; for the perceptions of each of these entities to become more similar in
understanding the role of public affairs; and the relationships between each entity.
The initial research highlights basic differences in the perceptions of the four entities by showing that the
commanding officers perceive the public affairs function as an extension of the staff in terms of acting as a liaison between
the military and public. Following the formal research we expect to confirm this basic perception by commanders.
We expect to find the perception of the military internal public, which consists of active duty military members,
retirees, DoD civilian professionals, family members of active duty professionals, family members of retirees, and family
members of DoD civilians, to see the function of public affairs as primarily one of public relations and image building.
Public affairs needs to ensure that the public has the information, knowledge, and understanding of the "message" that the
military is trying to provide, and that it is provided to the right audience. In addition, public affairs is there to educate both
the public and the employees (military and civilian) on our missions and activities, to see to it that good relations are kept
between the military installation and surrounding community, and to complement recruiting and to tell the story of the various
men and women in the military, with the hope that young people will want to join.
According to initial feedback from public affairs officers, the primary function of military public affairs is to build
public support for the military's mission; without this fundamental element the military would not be able to defend this
nation. We expect our formal research to confirm this as well as indicate public affairs as having a critical role in educating
our internal audience about the mission of the commanders, and what the civilian leadership's priorities are. Public affairs
officers are to be "honest brokers" for the commanders, giving them the best advice possible about the impact of their
We also expect public affairs practitioners to perceive the function of public affairs to include providing internal and
external publics with clear, free, and accurate information about their militaries; informing and educating military leaders
about their responsibilities to those publics; acting as spokespersons for that service, base, or installation; being
ambassadors for the military to those outside the gates, and responding to the needs of the installation commander by
advising and acting as a conduit between the commander and the external surrounding communities. In addition, public
affairs practitioners feel it is their duty to ensure accurate information is disseminated to the public in a timely manner on
various aspects of the military, to uphold and preserve the image of the individual service, and to repair damage done
Based on our results we will specify methods to foster a better understanding of the function of public affairs
between the four entities using the Agenda Setting tTeory. Agenda Setting describes a very powerful influence of the
media—the ability to tell us what issues are important. The issues the media chooses to highlight become the issues that
are important to us, regardless of the level of importance we placed on them before the media attention. The media has
the power to present images to the public, thereby engendering attitudes. Since firsthand experiences are limited, we
depend on the media to describe important events we have not personally witnessed (Infante, Rancer, & Womack, 1997).
Keeping the local, regional, and national media, and thereby the external public well informed on military issues, both
positive and negative, in a timely manner through frequent news releases and media opportunities to report base activities,
will ensure that the public affairs function is being utilized as it is intended by regulation, and that the military message is
To help insure this uniform perception of the major inclusive groups the following tactics are suggested. A survey
disseminated upon assignment of a new public affairs officer or a new commanding officer to ascertain their
perceptions. Commanders will be briefed as to the role as public affairs practitioners, to be trusted counsel to their
leadership, to foster morale and readiness in military members, public trust and support, and global influence and
deterrence. Well-informed commanders will lead to a well-informed internal public.
At the conclusion of their tour of duty, commanders will be asked to complete a second survey to ascertain how
they have perceived these functions have been carried out. The number of positive news stories generated will be tracked;
it is expected that positive news stories will outnumber negative stories and lead to positive comments from the external
public as to the function of public affairs at the local military installation. If these uniform perceptions are fostered, the
internal audience should also get the same perception based on the perceptions of the opinion leaders in command.
Relationships between military public affairs and the media can be fostered on a daily basis. Communication
remains the key between these two integral components. According to the literature review, misinformation and lack
of information are the two key factors in the degradation of perceptions by the media. If personal relationships between
primary players are enhanced, it should lead to an enhanced global relationship between the system that is the military and
the system that is the media.