Credibility, the intangible and vital requirement in
any successful public affairs office, is easily defined.
Simply put, credibility means believability, and without
it, the ability to succeed as a manager in any public
affairs endeavor is severely diminished.
So, how do you, the public affairs office manager,
establish credibility? And once established, how do you
maintain it in the face of mistakes or missed
Nothing can help if you botched a project, but the
following basic guidelines may prove helpful in
preventing such incidents.
First, know your job, and make sure your staff
knows theirs as well. Nothing can substitute for a
foundation based on sound knowledge of public affairs
practices and regulations coupled with a good dose of
common sense. When the investigative journalist
arrives at the accident site or when the congressman
arrives at the main gate with a video crew, there is no
time to research the problem. You have to know what to
do quickly and correctly.
Second, know your command and know it well. You
are not expected to be an expert on everything, but you
are expected to know where to find an expert answer.
Low and mid-level employees are a good source of basic
information, but rely on senior management for
definitive answers that should include policy
considerations as well.
Using these two guidelines as a foundation,
assemble additional building blocks for credibility by
the following suggestions:
Anticipate problems. Each week speed at least
15 minutes of uninterrupted quality time looking
over the calendar for the coming three months
and note activities or areas of potential public
affairs involvement. Gather information and be
Keep the boss informed. Periodic notes to the
PAO (or CO, as discussed later) let him know you
are working on an anticipated project or
gathering information on a potential problem
area. Demonstrating this initiative goes far in
establishing your credibility.
Review all material forwarded to your boss for
accuracy and completeness. If you have not
personally read it, do not let it leave your office.
Keep the chain of command informed.
Back-brief command offices and give a heads
up to senior or subordinate commands.
Know the bosss priorities and make them
yours. Redefine what you are doing to match his
schedule. If the PAO is sweating out a speech he
is writing for the skipper, you can bet he will not
be sympathetic to your monthly publication
Get along with others. If you have to crawl on
your bell y through the mud to get the job done,
do it. Then vent your frustrations in private.
Do not complain. Be sure to let the boss know if
you cannot meet deadlines. If the reasons are
valid, the boss will usually understand. But if you
have blown it, be prepared to pay the
While the media can be difficult to work with,
establishing credibility with media representatives is
easy. Again, a good knowledge of the craft, the
command and the willingness to go the extra mile will
earn you a rich return on your investment. Credibility
with regard to the media is discussed in Chapter 4.
Learning Objective: Identify the elements of public
affairs office correspondence.
A senior journalist must be proficient in composing
good correspondence in addition to his journalistic
talents. This section covers the essentials of good
correspondence composition. For more detailed
instruction on the preparation of correspondence, refer
to the Department of the Navy Correspondence Manual,
SECNAVINST 5216.5 series.
The term correspondence refers to a variety of
compositions which you may be called upon to prepare,
such as: (1) Navy format and public affairs letters, (2)
public affairs directives (standard public affairs plans,
PA annexes to operation orders, Command Information
Bureau (CIB) plans, adverse incident plans, etc.), (3)
messages (unit SITREP, news release in message form),
(4) public affairs guidance (PAG), (5) memorandum for
the record and (6) point papers.
WRITING THE OFFICIAL NAVY LETTER
The basics of preparing Navy letters can be applied
to all forms of official naval correspondence, including
directives. A letter is more effective when you plan it