Measurements & Data Analysis
The Internal Information Divisions of military public affairs offices is designed to provide the internal audience with information that "affect their lives" and has been categorized as issues pertaining to the people, mission and resources. Although these areas are addressed in installation internal information mediums, i.e., print, photojournalism, electronic (television and radio), the effectiveness of the quality and quantity of the information, the placement (location) of that information in the mediums, and the length or time allotted for these types of information has not been adequately assessed by installation commanders and public affairs offices. Several research methods can be instituted to render this information. This section addresses measurements to: first, reduce uncertainty of the commander, public affairs offices and the population (research questions 2, 3, 4, 5); second, determine the internal information needs of each population (research questions 1, 6, 7,); and third, review the process of how information travels from installation hierarchy to the population (research questions 8, 9).
First, semistructured face-to-face interviews and questionnaires can determine what the installation commander, installation audience and the public affairs offices finds as salient news to be delivered through internal mediums. Using a semistructured interview for the installation commanders and the public affairs officer is the optimum method because it allows for information to be provided in an in-depth manner while maintaining the core purpose of the interview. This interview style is most effective for these respondents and this situation (Sommer & Sommer, 1997). A mailed questionnaire with a signed cover letter from the installation commander to a random sample will gauge the installation audiences definition of internal information. Mailed questionnaires are effective for covering large geographical areas; respondents in this study are located in and outside of the immediate proximity of the installation. A random sample ensures that every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected to provide input about the effectiveness of internal information programs.
Collecting data from the commanders, the public affairs offices and the internal population can address the uncertainty levels of the public affairs office, the installation population and the installation commander within the information exchange. Descriptive statistics is an effective measurement to analyze the data collected. Descriptive statistics provide numerical descriptions of the raw data collected. They can be reviewed via bar graphs and pie charts (Sommers & Sommers, 1997).
Second, a two-phased comparison of empirical data collected from the installation newspaper readership survey and the current installation newspaper, and those results compared to the aforementioned mailed questionnaire will provide a baseline to better address these three groups information seeking needs. In the first phase, the data collected from the Likert-type scale compared to the data gathered from a content analysis of the installation newspapers will determine if the installation populations needs - as recorded on the newspaper survey - are being met. Likert-type scales produces scores that address attitudes of the respondents; they address the level intensity and direction (for or against) of the respondents feelings about the newspaper. (Most installations use random samples to conduct the newspaper survey.) This data should be compared to a content analysis of the current installation newspaper. The content analysis technique systematically describes the structure and content of the newspaper by rendering precise figures. Reviewing the Likert-type scale of the newspaper survey with a content analysis project would determine if the respondents feedback impacted the structure and content of the installation newspaper.
In the second phase, the results of this review (newspaper survey to content analysis) can be compared to the aforementioned mailed questionnaire to determine how internal information is being used and if the primary medium (newspaper) is used because it is the populations primary choice or if the population listed other primary choices, like the Internet or television. This will second comparison will determine if the right information is getting to the right audience using the right medium. Also, this second phase will reduce the limitations inherent in the Likert-type scale, which often does not fully predict behaviors and attitudes of the respondents (Sommer & Sommer, 1997).
To analyze this data, descriptive statistics will provide information in both nominal and ordinal characteristics. Nominal characteristics are categorical, as in gender, rank and age of the respondent. Ordinal characteristics provide information about the respondents preferences, as in first, second and third choices of internal information mediums (Sommer & Sommer, 1997).
Third, the implementation of a few major case studies that track how commanders and public affairs offices receive information to be presented to internal audiences and consequently, the placement of that information - encompassing both the selection of the medium and the selection of the location within that medium - will render information on the holistic approach of information exchange. Case studies are an optimum choice because they provide an in-depth investigation of a single incident, and is an effective measurement tool when studying uncontrolled occurrences that do not lend themselves to before and after observations (Sommer & Sommer, 1997). The assumption is that installation commanders and public affairs offices determine what information is salient to the installation audience. What is unknown is the availability of other information that may be overridden or altered for inclusion in the installation newspaper that may be more salient to the receiver. Additionally, the decision to give one story priority placement over another story is also not known as a matter of receiver salience. Case studies can identify the agenda set by public affairs and the commander to provide specified information. Also, it can address the degree to which the installation populations concerns and interests are considered in the information exchange process.
While case studies are effective in aiding in recall, judgments, motives or causes of behavior in incidents, they are not generally generalizable. A few case studies of internal information pertaining to people, mission and resources would provide a baseline for review the trend in the information exchange cycle.