ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
July 10, 2008

Integrity First . . . A Responsibility We All Share


I think it’s important for anyone interested in pursuing a career in public relations or as we say in government, public affairs, to be interested in all aspects of what’s happening in politics, media, local and national activities, etc. In other words, it’s important to have your thumb on the pulse of what’s happening locally, regionally and nationally. That’s what your boss wants to know and probably what he or she doesn’t have time to focus on.

I’ve always found that if I can provide added value to the organization, specifically my immediate supervisor, with real-time important facts, that effort makes me invaluable as an employee and provides me access that other players in the organization do not have.

In government public affairs we work for the citizens of the United States, not one political party or another. It’s important that we remember this because that concept can easily get lost in the heat of battle, especially when you’re trying to get a news release coordinated and distributed and a certain supervisor may want to slant a story a certain way. The Department of Defense public affairs guidance has always stayed with me throughout my career.

It’s DoD’s policy to make available timely and accurate information so that the public, Congress and the news media may assess and understand the facts about national security and defense strategy. Requests for information from organizations and private citizens are to be answered quickly. Information will be made fully and readily available, consistent with statutory requirements, unless its release is precluded by national security constraints or valid statutory mandates or exceptions. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will be supported in letter and spirit. A free flow of general and military information shall be made available, without censorship or propaganda, to the men and women of the armed forces and their dependents. Information won’t be classified or withheld to protect the government from criticism or embarrassment. Information will be withheld when disclosure would adversely affect national security, threaten the safety or privacy of U.S. government personnel or their families, violate the privacy of the citizens of the United States, or be contrary to law.

DoD’s obligation to provide the public with information on major programs may require detailed public affairs (PA) planning and coordination with the other government agencies and that activity is to expedite the flow of information to the public. Propaganda has no place in DoD public affairs programs.

If we are able to keep these ideals clearly in mind as we do our jobs, no matter whether it’s within the Department of Defense or any other federal government department, I think the citizens of the United State will be well served by our efforts.

Temple Black, senior spokesperson, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security, New Orleans, LA. Black is a retired Air Force public affairs officer who held positions at the Pentagon, Andrews Air Force Base and in Vukovar, Croatia to the U.N. Transitional Administrator. Additionally, Black devised public affairs strategies for the U.N., created a process to airlift the Department of Defense media pool to worldwide crises on short notice, and helped to open NATO’s public information program in Turkey.    

Join Black for his co-presentation, Making the Jump: A Second Life in Corporate or Government PR, along with Ray Crockett, James P. Moore, and Barry M. Grossman, APR, on Monday, August 18!

  • http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu Sheri B

    Well said! I worked both AF & Army PA, and find the lessons I learned there most often guide me now working for a university.