The US Military is testing PR skills as much as it does defense and weapons training. As more organizations look to public relations to provide an extra edge to get ahead, the military is incorporating the same tactics. They’ve implemented plans giving public affairs personnel in the Army Reserve a more intense training experience. This helps drive home the knowledge they need to succeed under pressure.
The exercise calls for military PR experts to cover other soldiers while they engage in their separate training and activities. According to the Chief of Training and Readiness-West, Lt. Col. Monica Womack:
“The goal for Exercise News Day is to provide all Army Reserve public affairs practitioners with an opportunity to sharpen their skills and practice their craft in a real-world environment, while simultaneously providing coverage of 90 percent of the Army Reserve exercises.”
Exercise News Day features six rotations of Army Reserve PR elements, scheduled to take place over the next six months. 225 soldiers will spread out in fourteen units testing under tour-like conditions across America. Womack added that “The intent is to create a real-world environment and inject the Soldiers into the 24-hour news cycle.”
This exercise benefits the public affairs reserves, who never before received hand’s on training. It also benefits the military allowing them to take advantage of free coverage. The military can then use training footage in ads to promote enlistment, or to gain favor in the public eye. They use footage to create the illusion that people know as much about military activities as it needs to, building trust.
This becomes more important as America faces criticism for drone attacks, and secret operations the public learns about after the fact and in limited amounts. The military must also prepare to handle the ISIS threat one way or another, regardless of who sits in the Whitehouse. Since public pressure may compel the next leader to strike.
The government would need to contain the public uproar caused by such a strike. The same goes for the situation where nothing is done, and ISIS and other militant terrorist groups begin to grow in force and numbers. This potential for an increased demand of public affairs personnel with special training and knowledge of military affairs may have prompted the military to increase the current intensity of PR training for its troops.
Implications for PR
Aside from political speculations, this exercise in the military also has many implications for PR. It speaks to the growth of the field, as well as the increasing importance placed on its activities and the skills of the experts involved. More brands see the advantages PR presents for positioning, reputation management, and influencing public opinion.
But rather than take the route of hiring a PR team, for the most part, the military trains its own. The most likely reason for this weighs on the importance of confidentiality. Still, trained soldiers from the field also work alongside contracted experts, enlisted personnel, and officers. No doubt other countries may soon follow suit if they haven’t already.
This contributes to PR’s ever-changing dynamic, while ensuring no shortage of experts in the field.