What is it like having a job within the U.S. military as a public relations person?
I plan on joining the U.S. military, at the moment the U.S. Navy, to serve my country and gain my degree in communications. I plan on working in public relations but I am not sure what the military will expect me to do. Can any offer any advice? #communications #military #communication #public-relations #united-states-navy
I recently retired from the Army and served as a Public Affairs Officer for the last 10 years of my career.
Generally, military public affairs personnel work on internal communications, media relations, community outreach and social media. What specifically you do in those four lines of effort will often be determined by the commander. A public affairs officer can help shape that line of effort by providing quality analysis and recommendations.
Here are some things you might do along each of the four lines of effort:
Internal communications: speech writing, Op-Eds, sensing sessions (much like focus groups)
Media relations: pitch to media, conducting interviews, preparing senior personnel for interviews, facilitating interviews and embedded media
Community outreach: public speaking, tours of military units and facilities, community events
Social media: maintaining a presence in all appropriate social media venues
You must also understand there is a difference between being an officer or enlisted personnel when considering the military. An enlisted Soldier in the Army might capture imagery and write copy for content that would be published in the social media space or in owned media. An officer can also do that, but must often is managing those that are conducting those tasks.
To get an idea what public affairs personnel are doing, go to the website of a military unit -- say, the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, KS or the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC. Most of the content will have been produced by Public Affairs personnel. You can also find links on the those websites to their social media venues. Those sites can give you an idea on the events they cover or promote and the messages they look to transmit.
I'm so glad that you want to join the communications field. The previous answers were completely on the mark. I have a few more thoughts. See if your guidance counselor can set up an informational interview for you, either with someone already in PR, or better still in the military PR field. Nothing beats talking to someone who already does the work on a daily basis. Don't be afraid to ask them what the best and worst parts of their jobs are. That is important if you are making decisions about your career. In the meantime can you intern or volunteer at a PR firm or office in your hometown? That will give you an idea of the pace of the work.
All that aside, thank you for your commitment to our country and your decision to join the U.S. military. It is brave, and selfless and generally awesome.
While I do not have any experience in this realm other than visiting with professional communicators at the Pentagon during my graduate school experience through Georgetown, one of my close friends does exactly what interests you. I reached out to her, who said to please share her rank/title. I'll also brag about her and tell you she was one of the only women selected for prestigious training earlier this year. Her job has taken her all over the world serving the United States, and she is a rock star in not only my eyes, but in many.
Her response to your question:
Working as a public relations professional within the profession of arms is the most rewarding job I've ever had, and only gets better over time. Each branch is a little different; but in the Navy, you will be expected to be a Mass Communications Specialist, who can do broadcasting, photojournalism, and writing. The best part about being in public affairs (what the military calls PR) for the military is that you get to experience all the jobs you write, photograph, or video tape. In essence, it's the only job that allows you to do every job. You also have the unique job requirement of providing a window into the military for the world. I am so proud when I see 50k views of a video spotlighting an Airman in Spain and the unique job he does as a crew chief in a NATO posting. Your products help recruit, justify funding, provide transparency, and tell the mission story. If you have any doubt about the value of a public affairs specialist, just look at the initial imagery that came from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Once you are trained, volunteer for every opportunity to get out and document what your fellow Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers, and Marines are doing on behalf of our country. And have fun!
Christina Judd, 2nd Lt, USAF
Public Affairs Officer
419th Fighter Wing
Hill Air Force Base, Utah
Best wishes for a tremendous future and career, Isabella!
Here are a few sites that give good information about Public Relations in the Navy. It is an important field with many very interesting opportunities for growth and advancement. Also, you can visit your local navy recruiter for more information.
Important tip!!: You could also ask the recruiter how you could enlist in the Navy for communications or public affairs and have the Navy pay for your training and college.
Best of luck!