Tag Archives: Public Affairs

Army marketing strategies and the future of word-of-mouth marketing

New Jersey Army National Guard

The U.S. Army predates the nation it serves. Since its inception, policymakers have worked to define the relationship between America’s Army and the civilian populace that supports its mission.

The Army has had to sell itself since the 18th century. First, it had to convince Congress that it was a match for the battle-hardened British Army. It then had to convince the American people that it could win the Revolution with enough time, resources and support. Since the end of the Vietnam War, the Army has been composed entirely of volunteers. It has had to market itself directly to military-aged men and women while at the same time appealing to applicants’ friends, family, and influencers — teachers, civic leaders and role models.

The Army has previously adopted successful marketing campaigns. In decades past, the slogan “Be All That You Can Be” resonated with the public. As the Army transitioned to an all-volunteer force, this theme was appropriate. It was as much a call to individual achievement as it was a higher calling to service. In recent years, the Army’s marketing efforts have struggled. The intent of the “Army of One” campaign was confusing and never caught on with its target audience. Instead of serving as an invitation to serve as a part of a team, the message seemed to focus solely on individual achievement, which runs counter to Army values and ethics. The “Army Strong” message was better, but the campaign did not resonate, either. It was replaced after it was found that civilians didn’t embrace the idea. The Army’s current marketing theme, focusing on “the Army Team,” is in keeping with the values, ethics and culture that are integral parts of the Army brand.

The first Army marketing campaign that comes to mind is from the World War I and II era — the “I want you!” poster. This iconic image was a direct appeal to the individual observing the poster. It featured Uncle Sam, the physical embodiment of the spirit of the United States, pointing at the observer. His eyes were intently fixed on the potential applicant, conveying the seriousness of the country’s need for Soldiers. The image of Uncle Sam, stern and unwavering despite threats to the American way of life from overseas, demanding that a service-age male stand up and do his part, was a successful marketing strategy. It was not just for those who would become Soldiers, but for those who would invest in the war effort in other ways – by purchasing war bonds or by working to manufacture wares used by Soldiers in the field.

Immediately after the Vietnam War, the Army had to address benefits the service offered to potential applicants, including job training and civilian education, in order to become competitive with potential civilian employers. It also had to present the esprit de corps, the camaraderie and the feeling of job satisfaction that could potentially result from military service. Finally, the Army needed an idea that could convey a connection to great leaders of the past, and to their achievements in founding and preserving the nation they served. The resultant slogan, “Be All That You Can Be,” and the advertising campaign that surrounded it for almost two decades, introduced many potential applicants to the idea that the Army could be a stepping stone to higher education (using the Montgomery GI Bill and the Army College Fund), to marketable job skills (electronics repair, aviation, logistics), or to a military career. Many of the applicants during this period also had a relative who had served in World War I or II, in Korea or in Vietnam, so the Army was also able to market to an individual’s sense of family. While appealing to the applicant from all of these positions, “Be All That You Can Be” also appealed to an applicant’s sense of pride and personal achievement.

Another successful campaign involved the Army National Guard. The marketing surrounding the simple slogan “You Can” inspired interest in the Guard’s dual mission for decades. The elegance and simplicity of the slogan conveyed a slew of possibilities: Would you like to have career training applicable to the civilian sector? You can. Would you like to complete your civilian education while serving your country? You can. Would you like to serve your local community in times of emergency? You can. Many individual states supplement the benefits offered by the GI Bill and Federal Tuition Assistance, making it even easier to attract applicants with an interest in continuing education. When the National Guard presents itself as an organization that can empower an applicant, it becomes attractive not only to the applicant but to influencers as well. Guidance counselors, principals, faith leaders and legislators can support students who seek to improve themselves by learning a trade or developing themselves through continuing education — at a minimum burden to the public coffers — while at the same time returning the investment by serving the community.

U.S. Army Sgt. Nayib A. Covar, an infantryman with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, takes a photo after sharing his reasons for serving in the U.S. Army during an interview Nov. 22, 2016, at Fort Stewart, Ga. Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division are highlighted on Facebook and Twitter every Wednesday for the Why We Serve Wednesday social media campaign. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nikki Felton)
U.S. Army Sgt. Nayib A. Covar, an infantryman with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, takes a photo after sharing his reasons for serving in the U.S. Army during an interview Nov. 22, 2016, at Fort Stewart, Ga. Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division are highlighted on Facebook and Twitter every Wednesday for the Why We Serve Wednesday social media campaign. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nikki Felton)

Recruitment issues were recently addressed in an Army Press online journal article, “Improving Army Recruitment by Word-of-Mouth Marketing.” The article addressed some handicaps the Army has as an organization. The author, Cpt. Kevin Sandell, a public affairs officer, suggests that direct communication with Soldiers may be more productive than typical recruiting efforts. Word-of-mouth recruiting may be very effective, especially considering the recent focus on the Army ethic and professionalization. In addition to the opportunities for education, the Army has renewed its efforts to certify Soldiers in their military occupational specialties. This certification extends as far as civilian credentialing in some of the more technical fields.

Former Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning emphasized the importance of these word-of-mouth connections and of the ability of Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers to make those connections. This word-of-mouth strategy is being incorporated into wider campaigns. As the overseas contingency operations of the past decade have reduced in size and scope, the Army’s media coverage has reduced as well. To increase media exposure, the Army instituted the “Meet Your Army” campaign as a means of fostering communication between the civilian community and the military. It is important to maintain this level of visibility, not just for the recruiting effort, but to keep the public invested in the Army’s mission. The American people need to be reminded that they enable the Army: through their trust and confidence, through encouraging young people to serve and through their tax dollars.

The Army offers untested youths the opportunity to sharpen the skills they learn in their primary and secondary education and apply them as part of a team. The NCO is in a position to convey this message to the American people. Noncommissioned officers play a special role in the marketing of the Army as recruiters. The recruiter is often the applicant’s first interaction with a Soldier, regardless of the Soldier’s component. Recruiters must be a tangible representation of all those things the Army mission and vision represent. The recruiter must subscribe to the Army ethic and live by the Army values. A recruiter must stand by the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer and the Soldier’s Creed. A recruiter must keep the oath made upon enlistment. Recruiting and retention NCOs must not be primarily concerned with the number of recruits they bring into the Army’s formations, but rather with bringing in quality applicants that have the potential to abide by the values and ethics the recruiters represent. Trained, educated and ethical recruiters will attract trainable, educable and ethical applicants.

The job description of the recruiting and retention NCO specifically states that the recruiter will be a first-line marketer, distributing and displaying recruiting material and cultivating community centers of influence. However, word-of-mouth marketing strategies dictate that all NCOs are recruiters, regardless of billet. They are tangible symbols of the Army brand and therefore must be prepared to relay their positive Army experience, verbally or in writing. An NCO has professional experience, training and education that can easily be related to by Americans. NCOs have attained their status by adherence to the Army values, the Army ethic, the Warrior Ethos and the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer. Conveying why it is important to adhere to these abstract principles is as important as abiding by them. The NCOs of the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve are in prime positions to market the Army, because they are parts of their communities. They can and should take the time to relay the Army’s mission and vision to Americans, not only to attempt to recruit youths into the ranks, but also to inform others of what the Army does.

The Army has had successful marketing campaigns — first marketing itself to military-age men, but now to all service-age Americans — while simultaneously presenting an attractive employment and educational opportunity to applicants’ influencers. The Army’s marketing is most successful when it emphasizes the one-team concept, appealing not only to self-interest but to applicants’ desires to incorporate the Army values and ethics into their lives.

Staff Sgt. Brian Darling is a paralegal noncommissioned officer assigned to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, New Jersey Army National Guard.

NCO overcomes fear, lands ‘dream gig’ at NFL

NCO Journal

Most Soldiers don’t imagine they will be in a dream job, working in a big-time environment, planning and setting up exciting events, bumping into famous personalities, enjoying every minute of the journey along the way.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson knows that feeling. He is living that seemingly distant dream — in an internship with the National Football League at NFL Headquarters in New York.

“To actually be here, it is almost like a dream,” Richardson said of his high-profile temporary position. “I’ll be walking down the hall and see one of my childhood heroes.”

Training With Industry

Richardson wasn’t going to apply for the internship, thinking he would never be selected, but Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, then the U. S. Army Pacific Public Affairs sergeant major, encouraged him to apply. Now his place of duty is NFL Headquarters through the Army’s Training With Industry program.

The TWI program offers selected NCOs and officers the chance to don civilian attire for a year and work in private industry, observing industry practices, communication tactics and work flow. NCOs who participate in the program say the year not only helps them gain knowledge they will need when they eventually retire from the Army, but also helps them learn tactics that can help the Army. After their year in private industry, NCOs who participate in the TWI program serve in utilization assignments in the Army, using and sharing the knowledge they gained.

Living the dream

NFL headquarters is definitely the “big time,” said Richardson, who works in the NFL’s communication department writing news releases and media advisories, promoting events through social media platforms and ensuring NFL executives have talking points for various public occasions.

“You know what you’re capable of, but so does everyone else there,” he said, adding that many of his coworkers were NFL players for “years and years.”

NFL headquarters is a bustling work environment where crises arise occasionally, and the pressure mounts.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson stands with Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush during the Pro Football League Hall of Fame Game in August in Canton, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)
Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson stands with Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush during the Pro Football League Hall of Fame Game in August in Canton, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)

“It’s not national security or life and limb, but you’re involved in projects that entail millions of dollars,” Richardson said.

The closest to NFL greatness Richardson thought he would get was collecting grass stains on his clothing while calling out the names of NFL legends. He said walking into the NFL headquarters for the first time left him speechless. He said there were few feelings greater than walking in the same footsteps as some of his boyhood idols.

“It’s not the building, decor or people that will leave you breathless,” he said. “It’s that single, personal thought of ‘you’ve made it.’”

The sports-laden and inspiring facilities at the NFL headquarters made an impression. Richardson recalled walking into a part of the building where Super Bowl rings were displayed. He marveled at the long line of history, tradition and the amount of sweat that it took to earn each one.

“That’s a lot of greatness in this spot,” he said, as he described the display case. “Each diamond resembled some Sunday-night lights from some game that millions watched and dreamed to be a part of. And just think about it, I’m here now — where millions want to be, and at the end of my year, I will be a part of the NFL’s coveted history.”

NFL experiences

Richardson has had some uncommon experiences outside of the headquarters as well, such as meeting and talking with NFL stars. On one occasion, he worked at a free concert the NFL sponsored for fans, and Steve Atwater, who earned eight Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowl rings during his NFL playing days, called out, “C’mon over!” to Richardson. They talked for quite a while.

“He’s a real laid back guy,” Richardson said of Atwater.

The Michigan City, Indiana, native also met and took a photo with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — Payton Manning. Manning led Richardson’s favorite team, the Indianapolis Colts, to a Super Bowl Championship.

In addition, Roman Oben — who played in the NFL for 12 years, including on a Super Bowl championship team, and is now the league’s director of Youth and High School Football — often pulls Richardson aside and talks to him.

Most NFL players and former players are approachable, Richardson said.

Changed perspective

The internship has changed Richardson’s perspective on the league from that of a fan to that of an employee who can see all the moving parts of the grand production. For example, Richardson said, there’s a lot more to working a game than merely watching it, such as ensuring the clubs are following league policies and standards, assessing extracurricular activities both in and out of the stadium, providing feedback on stadium traffic and ease of entering and exiting, and even evaluating the concession stands and staff.

“There’s a lot more than glamour and lights when it comes to football,” he said.

Although the corporate world seems far distant from military life, there are some similarities, Richardson said.

For example, being at the right place at the right time is important in both fields. However, corporate employees’ day-to-day schedules are largely their own, as long as they get their projects completed, but they are expected to be on time for meetings, he said.

“In the Army, though, on time is late. Some of the corporate guys show up at the exact time of the meeting,” he noted.

As far as the players in the NFL, they often don’t admit it when they get injured, just as rugged troops from line units will “soldier on,” despite being hurt.

Richardson also noted that NFL rookies and Army privates are treated similarly.

“Both rookies and privates come straight out of high school or college and join a larger organization that helps them prepare,” he said. “The league helps rookies with managing finances, staying out of trouble, health and safety, dealing with the media, planning for their future and just through the whole transition. Army leaders help privates in many of the same areas.”

Lessons Learned

Richardson admitted to making a rookie mistake at NFL headquarters. He wore a pullover with the logo of his beloved Indianapolis Colts to work one day. He was quickly and emphatically told to change his shirt.

“You have to be very neutral here,” he explained.

Richardson has also noticed some differences between corporate America and the Army.

“Here, they operate by ‘big boy rules,’” he said. “They won’t follow behind you, whereas the Army is more directed. You don’t need permission to take off here.”

Another difference is that the work load is spread out more in the corporate world.

“You’re not in anything alone,” he explained. “Projects are really broken down into teams. You rarely do something from beginning to end on your own. In the Army, though, you take on so much sometimes you are overwhelmed.”

Finally, Richardson acknowledged the difference he sees in camaraderie and teamwork between corporate life and the Army.

“Our department is a little better, but a lot of times in the corporate world they don’t have time to get to know each other,” he said. “They don’t have the same kind of camaraderie as we do in the Army.”

NFL’s perspective

The internship through the TWI program has proved to be a valuable experience in which Richardson has learned a great deal, while contributing to the betterment of the NFL.

“He brings a new perspective, based on his Army experience, to the team,” said his supervisor at NFL Headquarters, Community Relations Manager Melissa Schiller.

“He is very on top of everything he’s given, and he has a great deal of discipline,” she said. “He’s very diligent and very adaptable in a job that’s a new experience for him — and different every day.”

Richardson helps the team at NFL Headquarters in building a better relationship with the military, often asking if the military can be invited to events sponsored by the NFL, Schiller said.

“This is a great experience for us as well as for Kyle,” Schiller said.

Maj. Earl Brown, who also participates in the program as an active-duty Soldier, agreed with Schiller’s assessment of Richardson.

“He’s not only willing to jump in with everyone else on projects, learn and continue to fight, but he seeks out projects,” he said.

Brown, who looks at Richardson as his “battle buddy,” says he and Richardson speak a “different language” than their co-workers at NFL Headquarters.

“We can look at each other, and we know what’s going on,” he said.

Brown pointed out that, “what we bring to the table is a sense of duty,” citing how the leadership at NFL Headquarters didn’t have to worry about Richardson reporting for duty at 4 a.m. for his media team responsibilities associated with the NFL season kickoff in Denver.

He said he and Richardson conduct “backward planning” to the “SP” (start point) on media team projects, and he agreed with Richardson that oftentimes the corporate world doesn’t enjoy the tight-knit quality of the Army.

“We communicate,” Brown said. “We’re definitely a ‘fire team.’”

Family perspective          

When asked to compare the NFL experience with Army life, Richardson’s wife, Nancy Richardson, a former NCO herself, quipped, “The TDYs are shorter!”

On a more serious note, Nancy Richardson said another big difference between Army and corporate life is there is really no tie-in to families from the business world.

“At NFL headquarters, there are a lot of single players and employees, and family activities are the last thing they want to be involved with,” she said.

However, Nancy Richardson and other military spouses have tried to start some corporate involvement with families and are hoping those efforts bear fruit soon.

“Sometimes corporate America doesn’t expect NCOs to be that intelligent, so when someone like Kyle shows what he can do, the corporate employees really appreciate seeing that,” she said. “This temporary transition back into civilian life gives him an idea, not just of the work load, but how to look sharp in business attire, how to present himself in meetings, as well as how to network in the corporate world,” adding that it’s reassuring for him to see he can make it in that environment.

“It gives us that spark of hope,” she said.

It also gives him an opportunity to highlight the need to support Soldiers, she said.

Nancy Richardson said her husband was fortunate because he had a good leader in Trent who steered him to the opportunity, but she pointed to a need for wider exposure by the Army of the TWI program.

“We need this program to really help our troops for the future,” she said. “There are incentives for hiring veterans, but not for bringing active-duty Soldiers into these valuable programs.”

Some think TWI leads directly to Soldiers transitioning into civilian life after their training is complete, but — as a former Transition Assistance/Soldier for Life counselor — Kyle Richardson said that is not true. For instance, Richardson’s training with the NFL entailed a commitment of three additional years to the Army.

To Soldiers thinking about applying for a temporary position with the NFL or another industry, Richardson said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ll never know if you can make it until you try.”

“I know that, with this experience, if I were to do something after the military, I would be successful,” he said. “It gives you extra experience and extra knowledge. It’s a resume builder. And they’re not going to allow you to fail.”

Richardson added his Army experience and knowledge has helped his present duty with the NFL.

“I’ve applied what the Army has taught me and, with the skills I’ve learned, it has really set me up for success,” he said. “Now, I don’t fear trying new experiences.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with, from left, Sean Estrada, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman; Jaime Martinez, security officer and Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, Training With Industry Military Fellow as they watch Marquil Guice, a recruiter assigned to the United States Military Academy, play a game of Madden 17 against David Romero, a future Soldier, during the first Pro vs. GI Joes video game competition at the National Football League's Headquarters building, Nov. 2. The event kicked off the NFL’s annual Salute-to-Service campaign that recognizes and honor the servicemen and women around the world. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with, from left, Sean Estrada, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman; Jaime Martinez, security officer and Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, Training With Industry Military Fellow as they watch Marquil Guice, a recruiter assigned to the United States Military Academy, play a game of Madden 17 against David Romero, a future Soldier, during the first Pro vs. GI Joes video game competition at the National Football League’s Headquarters building, Nov. 2. The event kicked off the NFL’s annual Salute-to-Service campaign that recognizes and honor the servicemen and women around the world. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)

PAO reset is opportunity to get vital role right

NCO Journal

As the Army continues to downsize, the public affairs branch is losing positions. This is evidence it is also losing favor in the Army, despite its impact on public opinion through media relations. How the branch arrived at this state and how it can return to its “Be All You Can Be” glory days are subjects that may be the difference between winning and losing our future wars.

When this writer was coming up in the Army, public affairs was considered a significant force multiplier for Army commanders. The “Be All You Can Be” recruiting campaign was one of the most successful in the history of the military. The Defense Information School was an inspiring place where the best public affairs practitioners gave young Soldiers a vision of what they could accomplish and how they could make a difference in the defense of the nation by telling the Army story. Dynamic Soldier-journalists such as Fritz Homan, Rich Glynn and Pam Smith wrote and broadcasted powerful stories about gritty training exercises, 100-mile ruck marches, cutting-edge Army innovations, incredible feats, compelling relationships, and the grief and triumph of war. Public affairs pioneers such as Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Gary Beylickjian, were changing the Army’s perspective on difficult issues, such as suicide by advocating the subject not be considered taboo so it could be openly discussed and its resolution encouraged. Other U.S. Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame inductees advocated transparency, pointing to the merits of emphasizing the positive steps units were taking to correct problems rather than sweeping unsavory facts under the carpet. They recognized eventual disclosure was inevitable and hiding stories that were detrimental to the Army’s image would eventually make it look worse. Still, other Army public affairs practitioners, former Vice President Al Gore, for example, rose to fame outside of the branch and the Army. Soldiers and civilians were happy to be in a job they loved and proud to be a link in a mission that mattered.

Somewhere along the line, however, the public affairs job descended from professionally and passionately telling a story that mattered to superficially summarizing events and mindlessly filing stories somewhere where they would never see the light of day – not doing the Army nor anybody else any good. Moreover, the branch did not live up to its Joint Publication 3-61 (Public Affairs) doctrine of “maximum disclosure, minimum delay,” regarding providing information to external media. At a recent worldwide public affairs symposium, ABC Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz opined that this and other frustrations put the republic’s crucial cog of a free press aside to the point where many media representatives are near or at their limit as far as dealing with the branch.

Further worsening the situation has been an Army leadership that, in many instances, thinks of public affairs as an extension of protocol rather than professional communicators who could be used to shape the operational environment the way the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is. The United States Marine Corps has always understood the importance of public affairs. Its recruiting campaigns are legendary and, more importantly, public affairs personnel have always been in Marine leadership’s circles. Marines are savvy enough to know to “never argue with a man who buys his ink by the barrel,” or with someone whose website is followed by millions of people worldwide.

Regardless of the reason, the pertinent question about public affairs is: Where do we go from here? The coming shakeup of public affairs, due to heavy cuts, could be a good development. Public affairs could use this trial as an opportunity to get back to the basics of passionate, relevant and timely communication, writing and photographing events that matter and marketing information in a manner that has a positive effect for the Army. The branch can be renewed and strengthened if Army leaders follow the vision of the U.S. Marine Corps and use public affairs for its doctrinally intended purpose rather than for covering trivial events that are of no interest or concern to the general public.

This is a crucial time for the Army and public affairs. History has shown public opinion begins and ends wars, and the conventional media – and, even more so now, social media – remains a huge factor in influencing the masses. The Army and public affairs leaders would do well to be vigilant about the next move they make regarding a branch deemed necessary since 1775. It could largely affect the future of the Army – and the nation.

Toolkit: Dealing with the media

NCO Journal

In every conflict since the Revolutionary War, members of the media have been present on the battlefield documenting American servicemembers on the front lines. During World War II for example, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was embedded with the U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima when he snapped the iconic photo of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the Stars and Stripes on Mount Surabachi. During the Vietnam War, reporter Joe Galloway was alongside Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division and then famously told the story of their fight in the la Drang Valley in Vietnam.

Modern wars are no different. In the early 1990s, media members reported from Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm and were with Army units when U.S. forces crossed into Iraq in 2003. Even today, there is media embedded with units on patrol in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Brett Perry and former Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in 2010, are interviewed by WGN radio in Chicago in December 2010. (Photo by Master Sgt. Alberto Betancourt)
Staff Sgt. Brett Perry and former Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in 2010, are interviewed by WGN radio in Chicago in December 2010. (Photo by Master Sgt. Alberto Betancourt)

Because the Army’s public affairs branch is small, public affairs officers and NCOs cannot be assigned to each media member embedded on the battlefield. That’s why it’s important for all NCOs to prepare their Soldiers to deal with the media.

“Preparing for a media event should be no different than any other task we do as Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, U.S. Army Pacific Command’s public affairs sergeant major. “Dealing with the media requires thorough preparation. It is important to consider who the interviewer or media representative is and the story he or she intends to tell. It’s also important to know who the intended audience is and the story that you want to tell. Taking time to establish that in your mind before speaking to the media ensures that you, as the subject-matter expert, remain in control of the interview.”

The media will tell their stories with or without the help of Soldiers on the ground, Trent said. To make sure the media gets the facts correct; NCOs need to make sure their Soldiers only talk about what they know. 

“Don’t allow yourself to speculate about something that you’re not at liberty to discuss,” she said. “Stay in your lane and tell the truth. Follow those rules when interacting with the media and you can’t go wrong.”

When an event happens that media will want to cover, it’s important to get the correct information out to the public. That starts with Soldiers and NCOs on the ground.

“Releasing as much information as we have quickly is critical to maintaining credibility with the public,” Trent said. “Withholding information only serves to feed those who believe we have something to cover up. Our fundamental practice is maximum disclosure with minimum delay while ensuring the information is as accurate as we know. Of course, the facts will change quickly as more details become available. So providing constant and consistent updates is absolutely necessary, otherwise the Army’s credibility is once again deeply scrutinized.”

Trent added that a well-prepared NCO conducting an interview with a civilian press outlet has the ability to challenge any incorrect information or unwarranted negative coverage but should always be mindful of operational security measures as a top priority.

“No matter how quick we are with the truth or how quickly the truth we’ve released is trumped with additional facts as more is learned, there will always be those who want to portray the news negatively,” she said. “The Army can’t concern itself with the small portion of the media that might wish to twist information to meet their agenda. Being honest, candid and forthright with what we know — even and especially when we’ve made a mistake — is what is necessary to maintain trust with the American public.”


Media tips

Here are some more tips to for dealing with the media that are taught by Army Public Affairs:

  • If you don’t want to talk to the media, you don’t have to. But there are some definite benefits to telling the Army story. The American people are the military’s biggest supporters; by talking to media and getting the word out to them, you build credibility for both the Army and your unit.
  • Remember to always maintain operations security. You can still give general information, but avoid any specifics such as times, unit or equipment numbers, and locations, anything that could give the enemy an advantage and place troops in danger.
  • Always give factual information and avoid speculating. It is OK to say you don’t know the answer to a question.  But avoid the phrase “no comment,” as it makes it seem like you’re hiding something.
  • It’s best to only discuss things you have direct responsibility for or have personal knowledge of. It keeps you out of trouble and makes you sound more intelligent.
  • Feel free to give your opinion, but be aware you are representing the military while in uniform. Don’t talk bad about the chain of command or push political or social issues.
  • There is no such thing as “off the record.” Even when you’re joking around during a card game, everything you say can be published You don’t need to be paranoid, just be mindful.
  • Keep things rated PG-13. Your words will go out to the general public, so you need to make sure your language doesn’t offend and that your description of things is not too graphic.
  • When being interviewed on camera, make sure you present yourself as a professional. That means no chewing tobacco, cigarettes, gum, uniform infractions or general sloppiness. You represent the Army.
  • Avoid jargon, slang and acronyms — anything the general public wouldn’t understand.
  • Above all, be respectful. You are a direct reflection of the Army, your unit and the Soldiers around you. Do them proud.

Sgt. Edward Garibay, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this story.