• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Dedication
 Acknowledgement
 Table of Contents
 Abstract
 Introduction
 Review of literature
 Materials and methods
 Findings
 Summary and conclusions
 Appendices
 References
 Biographical sketch
 Back Matter














Title: Conflict resolution
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100648/00001
 Material Information
Title: Conflict resolution the relationship between Air Force public affairs and legal functions
Physical Description: vii, 109 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Law, James William, 1968-
Publication Date: 1998
Copyright Date: 1998
 Subjects
Subject: Journalism and Communications thesis, M.A.M.C   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Journalism and Communications -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Summary: ABSTRACT: The literature regarding the relationship between public relations practitioners and lawyers indicates that a balance between the two is the best way for an organization to survive or prevent a crisis. However, legal counsel is taken more often over public relations counsel, which can be fatal in the court of public opinion. Researchers suggest that interdisciplinary education and better communication and planning between lawyers and communicators will create a better balance between the two functions. This research examines the relationship between Air Force public affairs and legal functions to find out what conflict exists, how often it occurs, how it is resolved, what the results are for the Air Force as a whole, and what can be done to improve the relationship. The study is based on conflict resolution theory and examines the relationship in terms of win-win, win-lose and lose-lose scenarios. An on-line survey was conducted of 790 Air Force public affairs officers, lawyers and commanders using electronic mail and a web-based form. The researcher received approximately 250 responses (31%). The data indicate that, while Air Force lawyers and communicators usually work well together, conflicts between the two do occur for a variety of reasons: differing objectives; the balance between the "right of the people to know" and the government's or an individual's right to privacy and fair legal proceedings; an information-hungry media environment; defense attorneys who use the media to plead their case, government rules which muzzle the Air Force from telling its side of a story; and a lack of education and/or training of public affairs officers and judge advocates.
Summary: ABSTRACT (cont.): Respondents indicated that conflicts between the two are usually resolved in a win-win result for the two parties approximately half of the time, and that the legal course of action is taken much more often than the public affairs course of action. The data further show that the Air Force as a whole only experiences a win-win result approximately 30% of the time following a conflict between public affairs and legal functions, indicating that leaders may need to give greater heed to public affairs counsel if they want the service to be successful in both the court of public opinion and courts of law. Based on his analysis of the data, the researcher recommends continued interdisciplinary education of public affairs officers, judge advocates, and commanders regarding balancing legal and public affairs issues; more joint planning between the two functions; more communicating and sharing of information; clarification of the rules regarding the release of information during courts martial, investigations and other high-visibility legal crises; and more emphasis on what is in the best interest of the Air Force.
Summary: KEYWORDS: public relations, US Air Force, lawyers
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 1998.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 104-108).
Additional Physical Form: Also available on the World Wide Web; PDF reader required.
Statement of Responsibility: by James William Law.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00100648
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 39659890
alephbibnum - 002367992
notis - ALX2651

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Table of Contents
    Front Matter
        Survey 1
        Survey 2
        Survey 3
        Survey 4
        Survey 5
        Survey 6
        Survey 7
        Survey 8
        Survey 9
        Survey 10
        Survey 11
    Title Page
        Page i
    Dedication
        Page ii
    Acknowledgement
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
    Abstract
        Page vi
        Page vii
    Introduction
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Review of literature
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
    Materials and methods
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
    Findings
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
    Summary and conclusions
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
    Appendices
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
    References
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
    Biographical sketch
        Page 109
        Page 110
    Back Matter
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
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CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AIR FORCE
PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND LEGAL FUNCTIONS













By

JAMES WILLIAM LAW


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


MAY 1998































This research is dedicated to Virginia Pribyla-the most professional public affairs
officer and military member I know. Her ideas, feedback, encouragement and support
made this study possible.




















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Many people contributed to this research. I am grateful to the public affairs

officers, judge advocates and commanders who took time to share their thoughts on this

important issue. I am also appreciative of those on the Secretary of the Air Force's public

affairs staff who provided assistance and "went to bat" for me to ensure I could field my

survey. The support I received from my chair, Dr. Linda Hon, was outstanding-her

candid feedback, attention to detail, and encouragement let me concentrate on the most

important task, conducting the study. The unique legal qualifications of Dr. Sandra

Chance and the crises communication expertise of Dr. Gail Baker Woods were especially

helpful in providing the correct perspective on this topic. Finally, I thank my wife, Cheryl,

who was always there to proof my materials, listen to my frustrations and keep me

focused.















TABLE OF CONTENTS


page


A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S .................................................................................................. iii

A B S T R A C T ....................................................................................................................... v i

CHAPTERS

1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ................................................. ............................................... 1

2 R E V IEW O F LITER A TU R E ........................................... ......................... .............. 7

Definition of Terms ................................................... ....................... 7
C conflict Theory-A n O verview ....................................... ........................ .............. 7
Public R relations vs. L egal C counsel ......................................................... .............. 12
The Relationship Between Public Relations Practitioners and Lawyers.................. 32
Finding C om m on G round ................................................................... .............. 37
S u m m ary ..................................................................................................................... 4 4
Research Questions .......................................... ............................ 45

3 M ATERIALS AND M ETHOD S ....................... ................................................ 47

R research D design and Sam pling.................................. ....................... .............. 47
Survey Instrum ents ......... ... ................... .......... ...................................... 50
C oding and D ata A analysis .................................................................... .............. 51
R e sp o n se R ate ............................................................................................................. 5 3

4 F IN D IN G S ................................................................................................................ .. 5 6

G general Inform ation ............................................................. .. .... .... ........ ........... 56
Frequency and Characteristics of Conflict .............................................. .............. 59
H ow Conflict Is U usually Resolved .................................................... ................ 64
How To Decrease Conflict or Better Resolve Conflict......................................... 66
P ost H oc A analysis .............. .............. ......................................................... .... 76









5 SUM M ARY AND CONCLUSION S...................................................... .............. 78

D isc u ssio n ................................................................................................................... 7 8
Research Contributions for Mass Communications.............................................. 86
Research Limitations and Opportunities for Future Research .................................... 87


APPENDICES

A SAMPLE ELECTRONIC MAIL TO SURVEY RECIPIENTS.............................. 90

B SAMPLE REMINDER ELECTRONIC MAIL TO SURVEY RECIPIENTS............ 91

C SU R V EY Q U E STIO N N A IRE S.................................................................................. 92

D SAMPLE SURVEY RESPONSE ................................. 103

REFERENCES ....................................................... ............................ 104

BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ................................................................. .............. 109















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication

CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AIR FORCE
PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND LEGAL FUNCTIONS

By

James William Law

May 1998

Chair: Linda Hon
Major Department: College of Journalism and Communications


The literature regarding the relationship between public relations practitioners and

lawyers indicates that a balance between the two is the best way for an organization to

survive or prevent a crisis. However, legal counsel is taken more often over public

relations counsel, which can be fatal in the court of public opinion. Researchers suggest

that interdisciplinary education and better communication and planning between lawyers

and communicators will create a better balance between the two functions.

This research examines the relationship between Air Force public affairs and legal

functions to find out what conflict exists, how often it occurs, how it is resolved, what the

results are for the Air Force as a whole, and what can be done to improve the relationship.

The study is based on conflict resolution theory and examines the relationship in terms of

win-win, win-lose and lose-lose scenarios. An on-line survey was conducted of 790 Air









Force public affairs officers, lawyers and commanders using electronic mail and a web-

based form. The researcher received approximately 250 responses (31%).

The data indicate that, while Air Force lawyers and communicators usually work

well together, conflicts between the two do occur for a variety of reasons: differing

objectives; the balance between the "right of the people to know" and the government's or

an individual's right to privacy and fair legal proceedings; an information-hungry media

environment; defense attorneys who use the media to plead their case, government rules

which muzzle the Air Force from telling its side of a story; and a lack of education and/or

training of public affairs officers and judge advocates. Respondents indicated that

conflicts between the two are usually resolved in a win-win result for the two parties

approximately half of the time, and that the legal course of action is taken much more

often than the public affairs course of action. The data further show that the Air Force as

a whole only experiences a win-win result approximately 30% of the time following a

conflict between public affairs and legal functions, indicating that leaders may need to give

greater heed to public affairs counsel if they want the service to be successful in both the

court of public opinion and courts of law.

Based on his analysis of the data, the researcher recommends continued

interdisciplinary education of public affairs officers, judge advocates, and commanders

regarding balancing legal and public affairs issues; more joint planning between the two

functions; more communicating and sharing of information; clarification of the rules

regarding the release of information during courts martial, investigations and other high-

visibility legal crises; and more emphasis on what is in the best interest of the Air Force.















CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

There is growing concern among U.S. Air Force communicators and lawyers

regarding the relationship between the two disciplines, especially during crisis situations.

The Air Force's former Director of Public Affairs has described the alliance between the

two as "a complex relationship between two member of the same team," and another

senior Air Force public affairs officer admits that "whether at Air Force headquarters or in

the field, we often experience a conflict of perspectives when lawyers and public affairs

officers advise senior leaders during crises."2 Recognizing this, the researcher examined

the relationship between Air Force legal and public affairs functions by gathering data to

determine what conflict exists, how often it occurs, how it is usually resolved, its overall

effects on the Air Force, and how the relationship between the two functions can be

improved.

Examining this relationship is important because there is evidence to suggest that

the actual number of crises faced by organizations is rising. A study conducted by the

Institute for Crisis Management showed that the first six months of 1996 saw a 13%




1 Sconyers, Ronald, U.S. Air Force Director of Public Affairs, Memorandum to The Air
Force Judge Advocate General, 22 Oct. 1997.

2 Tyrell, Terry, Chief of Strategic Planning, Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public
Affairs, personal email, 11 Apr. 1997.









increase in the number of business crises.3 Although white-collar crime, corporate

mismanagement and labor disputes made up nearly half of the crises studied by the

Institute, sexual harassment was the fastest growing crisis category, jumping 192% during

the same time period.

One researcher attributes the jump in the number of crises to increased interest

from the mass media and to an increase in the number of lawsuits filed against companies,

factors which are naturally of great concern to both lawyers and communicators.4 And in

today's environment, says one crisis communication scholar, "So many crises are created

by lawsuits there is a growing need for lawyers and PR folks to work together."5

Another reason why the relationship between lawyers and public relations

practitioners is so important during a crisis is the time factor. Executives are under

tremendous pressure at the onset of a crisis and what little time there is "shouldn't be

wasted in bickering between lawyers and public relations people."6 From an Air Force

perspective, crises can impact commanders' options, service members' reputations, and







3 "Crises Up Slightly in First Half of'96," Inside PR, 12 Aug. 1996
(http://www.register.com/prcentral/ ipraug 12crisis. htm)

4 Pinsdorf, Marion, Communicating When Your Company Is Under Siege: Surviving
Public Crisis, (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987) 6, 7.

5 Fitzpatrick, Kathy, personal email, 30 Apr. 1997.

6 Birch, John, "New Factors in Crisis Planning and Response," Public Relations Quarterly,
Spring 1994: 33.









most importantly, Air Force policy formulation.7 A senior Air Force lawyer who regularly

briefs officers regarding the military justice system perceives that commanders are

distressed to see distortions in the media and their "possible impact on their ability to

handle a case according to their best judgment."8

There is already a body of knowledge on the relationship between corporate

lawyers and public relations people. The research shows the two sides frequently can

offer "competing and adversarial approaches to problem solving" and "have a paralyzing

effect on the decision-making process," forcing leaders to balance the two perspectives.9

This could be because, as one senior Air Force lawyer said, the legal focus normally has

been on inside-the-courtroom issues and "media relations has been traditionally left to

Public Affairs."10 But on the other hand, many scholars and practitioners believe that if

properly used, the two consultants can play significant roles in helping an organization

survive or even prevent a crisis. 11

Research on this topic has been done mostly by communicators using data

gathered from other communicators. However, the researcher gathered data from not



7 Swanson, Jim, "JA/PA Relations and the Media," briefing at the Air Education and
Training Command Public Affairs Conference, Feb. 1997.

8 Rives, Jack, Air Force Judge Advocate General School commandant, personal telephone
conversation, 14 Jul. 1997.

9 Cooper, Douglas, "CEO Must Weigh Legal and Public Relations Approaches," Public
Relations Journal, Jan. 1992, 40.

10 Swanson.

11 Cooper, 40.









only public affairs personnel, but also from legal practitioners and from Air Force decision

makers-the commanders. Because researchers have neglected examining this relationship

from the perspective of these other professionals, this research will fill a void in the

literature on the subject.

Additionally, nearly all of the research regarding this relationship has been done

from the corporate or business viewpoint, which has left a gap in research regarding those

in government and, in particular, military service. Still, a few similarities can be drawn

between the two types of organizations. With more than 500,000 employees, an annual

$75 billion budget and more than 75 worldwide installations, the United States Air Force

is comparable to a large international company. 12 And like any large company, the Air

Force is faced with crises from time to time and will continue to be vulnerable to crises

and related negative effects. The Air Force is also similar to civilian companies which,

when facing crises, are "turning to two consultants: lawyers and those engaged in public

relations."13

Nevertheless, the military faces three additional factors that might exacerbate any

existing strain between the two fields. First, the Department of Defense consistently

draws a very large amount of attention from Congress, the news media, special interest

groups, the states and communities where installations are based, and the millions who

have family members and friends who serve. One Air Force lawyer who has noticed the



12 "U.S. Air Force Almanac 1997," Tamar Mehuron, ed., Air Force Magazine, May 1997,
42-139.

13 Cooper, 40.









increased media coverage of Air Force courts martial and other disciplinary actions

attributes it to an increase in the number of "victims" seeking media attention on their

behalf, the growing use of the media by defense attorneys and the proliferation of and

competition among the media themselves. 14 And recently, the media have been more

rigorous in getting information, often from other-than-official sources, says another Air

Force lawyer, making it even more essential that communicators and lawyers work closely

together to minimize distortions in the media. 15

Second, in addition to being under the jurisdiction of state and federal law, all

military members have other legal responsibilities under the Uniform Code of Military

Justice and military regulations, which can create challenges that corporate practitioners

may never face. For example, although company executives may lose their jobs or face

civil litigation from spouses following adulterous affairs with coworkers, recent high-

visibility cases have shown that service members can be criminally prosecuted and put in

jail for similar transgressions. Although "adultery is almost never prosecuted unless other

serious offense are also alleged," 16 the Air Force has prosecuted nine people for adultery

alone since 1985.17



14 Swanson.

15 Rives, personal telephone conversation.

16 Rives, Jack, "It Works for Us: A Guide to the Military's Rules On Fraternization and
Adultery," (http://www.palink.af.mil/home/fratpax.html) 11 Dec. 1997.

17 Nobel, Carmen, "The Kelly Flinn Case: Pilot's Discharge Won't End The Debate Over
Crimes Of The Heart," Air Force Times, 2 Jun. 1997.









Third, military spokespersons are obligated by law to release information unless it

is classified or otherwise exempt under the Freedom of Information Act. So although

choosing not to release information may be a viable option for corporate public relations

practitioners, government communicators operate under a different set of rules.

The combination of these three factors-intense media attention, the UCMJ, and the

obligation to release information-can make for some unique legal-public relations

situations. Research into the relationship between these two fields in the military will add

to the body of knowledge that already exists regarding the relationship in corporate and

business service.















CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE


Definition of Terms


There has been much discussion in the literature regarding the definition of

"conflict," but for purposes of this paper, a conflict exists "whenever incompatible

activities occur."1 Two military terms also need clarification. The military calls its

public relations function public affairs. Although there are a few differences between

what a corporate public relations person does and what an Air Force public affairs person

does, the functions of media relations, community relations and internal relations are

largely the same, so the two terms will be used interchangeably. Similarly, the Air Force

calls its legal officers judge advocates, which will be used interchangeably with

"lawyers" and "attorneys."

Conflict Theory-An Overview


Conflict and the Causes of Conflict

Morton Deutsch, a sociologist who has studied conflict for more than 25 years,

has written, "Conflict can neither be eliminated nor even suppressed for long."2 His



1 Deutsch, Morton, The Resolution of Conflict, (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1973) 10.

2 Deutsch, 10.









statement that conflict occurs "whenever incompatible activities occur" is not limited to

only competitive situations but also extends to cooperative situations as well since

"controversy over the means to achieve a mutually desired objective is a common part of

cooperation."3 He believes that conflict in and of itself is neither good nor bad, but that

conflicts can be resolved with either constructive or destructive consequences to the

participants: "A conflict clearly has destructive consequences if its participants are

dissatisfied with the outcomes and feel they have lost as a result of the conflict ... a

conflict has productive consequences if the participants all are satisfied with their

outcomes and feel that they have gained as a result of the conflict."4

Accordingly, Deutsch lists seven variables that can affect the course of conflict

and that can determine whether a conflict is resolved productively: the characteristics of

the parties in conflict, their prior relationship to one another, the nature of the issue giving

rise to the conflict, the social environment within which the conflict occurs, the interested

audiences to the conflict, the strategy and tactics employed by the parties in the conflict,

and the consequences of the conflict to each of the participants and to other interested

parties. 5

Conflict Resolution

If, as Deutsch says, conflict between parties is inevitable from time to time, the

goal of conflict resolution is not necessarily how to eliminate or prevent conflict but



3 Deutsch, 10, 31.

4 Deutsch, 17.

5 Deutsch, 4-6.









rather "how to make it productive." 6 Conflict can be resolved in a variety of ways. One

of the simplest ways to analyze conflict resolution is detailed by Alan Filley. He lists

three methods: forcing (win-lose), compromising (lose-lose), and problem solving (win-

win).7

As the labels in parentheses suggest, win-lose and lose-lose methods mean that at

least one party of the conflict has failed to achieve objectives, thereby causing what

Deutsch would call destructive consequences. Both of these methods also have in

common that:

There is a clear we-they distinction between the parties rather than a we-
versus-the-problem orientation.

Energies are directed toward the other party in an atmosphere of total victory
or total defeat.

Each party sees the issue only from his/her own point of view, rather than
defining the problem in terms of mutual needs.

Their emphasis in the process is upon attainment of a solution, rather than
upon a definition of goals, values, or motives to be attained with the solution.

Conflicts are personalized rather than depersonalized via an objective focus on
facts and issues.

There is no differentiation of conflict-resolving activities from other group
processes, nor is there a planned sequence of those activities.

The parties are conflict-oriented, emphasizing the immediate disagreement,
rather than relationship-oriented, emphasizing the long-term effect of their
differences and how they are resolved.8

6 Deutsch, 17.

7 Filley, Alan, Interpersonal Conflict Resolution, (Dallas: Scott, Foresman and Company,
1975): 21.

8 Filley, 25.










Forcing methods are further characterized by "real or perceived power imbalances

between the parties" where each tries to control such things as information, money and

authority, resulting in one party giving in to the other or a deadlock.9 Compromising

methods differ from forcing in the assumption by both parties that there is an equal

balance of power between them and that continued disagreement is more costly than

compromise. Even so, each party still tries to increase its power, and information is still

hoarded or manipulated to gain an advantage. The result of compromising methods is

that, while both parties agree to a particular decision, neither is really satisfied with it. 10

On the other hand, problem-solving methods use consensus strategies and focus

on the end goal, thereby causing what Deutsch would call productive consequences. As a

win-win method, the only thing lost by engaging in problem-solving, says Filley, is "the

creation of losers."1 1 Problem-solving is characterized by a belief that it is possible to

"arrive at a solution which is of high quality and which is mutually acceptable."12

Information is fully shared and all alternatives are evaluated before a decision is made,

and the outcome of this win-win method is usually a decision to which both parties are

committed.





9 Filley, 90.

10 Filley, 91.

11 Filley, 22.

12 Filley, 92.









Unfortunately, says Filley, forcing and compromising are the most practiced

methods of conflict resolution, perhaps "because of the tendency many of us have to

persist in using learned behavior patterns, even those which are destructive." 13 The

decision by a party to use a particular method is based on each party's belief of the

possibility of an agreement, the possibility of finding a win-win solution, and the ultimate

consequences. 14

Accordingly, Filley has discussed various organizational options to increase the

likelihood that problem-solving will be the method of choice when resolving conflicts.

His options include: parties meeting together to develop joint agendas of problems to be

solved, the allowing of open disagreement on both sides in each other's presence, and

meeting to discuss attitudes, feelings and previous behavior. 15 These organizational

options are similar to the steps in one particular type of problem solving that Filley calls

"integrative decision making." This process includes the review and adjustment of the

conditions that promote cooperation versus conflict; the review and adjustment of

perceptions, feelings and attitudes between parties; mutual determination of the problem;

nonjudgmental generation of potential solutions; the evaluation of the solutions; and

agreement on the final decision. 16



13 Filley, 22.

14 Filley, 56, 57.

15 Filley, 76-79.

16 Filley, 92, 93.









Public Relations vs. Legal Counsel


Using conflict theory to examine the relationship between public relations and

legal counsel is appropriate, because although both staff functions are usually on the same

team, whether that team is the Air Force or a company, each represents different and

sometimes conflicting objectives. Such conflicts can reflect the two arenas in which they

operate-"courts of law proclaim that a person is innocent until proven guilty, whereas the

court of public opinion often declares a person guilty until proven innocent."17 A

negative ruling in either can be devastating-in a court of law, one can be imprisoned or

lose large sums of money, and in the court of public opinion, "you lose your reputation,

your good name and your positive image."'8 Conflicts between the two also may be a

result of perceived or real incompatibilities with the laws or rules which govern each

field. For example, although military personnel are bound by the Freedom of Information

Act and other regulatory instructions to provide full disclosure of information to the

public with minimum delay, 19 they also are restricted by law from releasing some types

of personal information about Air Force employees under The Privacy Act of 1974 and

other regulations. And, the Air Force's Rules of Professional conduct, which are based

on the American Bar Association's Standards for Criminal Justice, prohibit personnel

from making statements that "have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an



17 Fearn-Banks, Kathleen, Crisis Communications: a casebook approach (Mahwah, N.J.:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) 98.

18 Fearn-Banks, 97.

19 Air Force Instruction 35-206, Media Relations, 29 Jun 1994 at 1.3.2.









adjudicative proceeding."20 At the core of such conflict is one experienced by military

and civilian lawyers and communicators alike-the balance between the public's right to

know and an organization's or a person's right to privacy and the right to fair legal

proceedings.

Lawyers and the Court of Law

There is disagreement over whether there has been a "litigation explosion" in the

United States. One author estimates that civil litigation "is increasing approximately

seven times faster than the national population"21 and another estimates that up to 30

million cases are filed each year.22 Yet the national Center for State Courts reported in

1996 that there is no evidence that the number of civil lawsuits is on the rise and that the

number has actually been decreasing since 1990.23 Regardless of the actual number of

cases filed, they cost corporate America more than $80 billion a year.24 Because

corporate lawyers want to prevent litigation from occurring and desire to win should a



20 Air Force Rules of Professional Conduct at 3.6, Trial Publicity.

21 Garry, Patrick, A Nation of Adversaries: How the Litigation Explosion Is Reshaping
America, (New York: Plenum Press, 1997) 15.

22 Jacobs, Margaret, "Reliable Data about Lawsuits Are Very Scarce," Wall Street
Journal, Jun. 9, 1995, 1 as cited in Garry.

23 Dilworth, Donald, "Court Statistics Confirm No Litigation Explosion," Trial, May
1996, 19.

24 Quayle, J. Danforth, speech delivered to the American Bar Association convention in
Atlanta, Ga. (Aug. 1991), reprinted in Earlhamite, Spring 1992, at 6 as cited in
Roschwalb, Susanne and Stack, Richard, "Litigation Public Relations," Communication
and the Law, Dec. 1992: 5.









lawsuit be filed against their company, they naturally want to control any information

which could affect such litigation. Since anything spoken or written can potentially be

used against a client in court, and since anyone with knowledge of an organization can be

called into court for depositions against a client,25 "the last thing that an attorney wants

to do is to lose control of the words... ."26 And although some public relations

practitioners argue that "wordsmithing is time-consuming and pointless,"27 it is for this

reason that some lawyers instinctively "encourage the CEO to head for the bunker and

slam the door, saying and admitting nothing."28 One lawyer who is concerned about the

balance between public relations and legal issues during crises states:

One of a lawyer's primary concerns in a crisis is ensuring that the client doesn't
make statements that will prove detrimental or fatal in a later legal proceeding.
Be assured that all public statements-written or oral-made by a company and its
representative during a crisis will be scrutinized by lawyers preparing a later
lawsuit against the company. Any statements even slightly suggestive of an
admission of liability will turn up in post-crisis litigation.29







25 Fearn-Banks, 97.

26 Cooper, Douglas, "CEO Must Weigh Legal and Public Relations Approaches," Public
Relations Journal, Jan. 1992: 39.

27 Sylvester, Carla, "PA Lessons: High Visibility Court-Martial" briefing at the Air
Education and Training Command Public Affairs Conference, Feb. 1997.

28 Birch, 31.

29 Magid, Creighton, "Balancing PR and Legal Needs in a Crisis," Reputation
Management, Nov/Dec 1995, (http://www.prcentral.com/rmso95magid.htm).









Therefore, it is not surprising that some lawyers focus on winning the legal battle

and believe that "if the case is won, it does not matter what the public thinks."30 One

author sums up a description of this traditional legal communication strategy: say

nothing; say as little as possible and release it as quietly as possible; "say as little

possible, citing privacy law, company policy or sensitivity; deny guilt and/or act indignant

that such charges could possibly have been made; and shift or, if necessary, share the

blame with the plaintiff."31

Public Relations and the Court of Public Opinion

In its crisis communication manual, General Motors says that "there are few assets

on GM's balance sheet worth more than its reputation. A damaged reputation that is left

untended can lead to a loss of organizational self-esteem and erosion of long-standing

external relationships."32 On a similar note, the Air Force's former top military officer,

General Ronald Fogleman, said that "we must consider our corporate image as a priceless

resource as valuable as our people and aircraft."33 During the past 10 years, the military

has remained one of the institutions in which Americans have the most confidence,




30 Cooper, 39.

31 James Lukaszewski, "Reducing the Media's Power," Executive Action, Apr-Jun 1993
as cited in Fitzpatrick, Kathy and Rubin, Maureen, "Public Relations vs. Legal Strategies
in Organization Crisis Decisions," Public Relations Review, Spring 1995: 22.

32 General Motors Corporation Crisis Communication Manual, 1991: 6.

33 Sconyers, Ronald, U.S. Air Force Director of Public Affairs, Global Communication
Into the 21st Century, briefing to new Air Force general officers, May 1997.









according to annual Harris Polls.34 The 1997 poll netted the armed services the top spot

with 37% of respondents indicating they had "a great deal of confidence" in the military,

with the medical community and the U.S. Supreme Court garnering second and third

place with 29% and 28%, respectively. Even so, just a year earlier the same rating for the

military was at 47%, a full ten points higher. Some, including Harris officials, have

attributed this loss of confidence to the string of recent military sex scandals and other

embarrassing incidents.

One author agrees with the emphasis on reputation, saying, "The notion of

damage to corporate reputation is not just ephemeral, but actually a tangible item... ."35

An example of just how tangible a reputation can be to a company's bottom line is the

crisis at Texaco which occurred after The New York Times printed transcripts of a

meeting where company executives made racially offensive comments and discussed

withholding evidence from a current lawsuit claiming racial discrimination. The financial

fallout from the damage to its reputation-the value of its stock, the scrutiny of

government regulators, the boycott and defection of customers, and more-will "dwarf"

the millions Texaco will pay to settle the lawsuit that initiated the crisis in the first

place.36





34 "A Falling Star," Air Force Times, 9 June 1997.

35 DeMartino, Tony, "How To Do Litigation Public Relations," Inside PR, 17 Feb. 1997
(http://www.prcentral.com/iprfebll01itigation.htm).

36 Collingwood, Harris, "Message Therapy," Working Woman, February 1997: 26.









Gerald Meyers, a business professor at Carnegie Mellon University who teaches a

crisis response curriculum, believes that public relations deserves equal footing with

lawyers during crises. "If you win public opinion," he says, "the company can move

forward and get through it. If you lose there, it won't make any difference what happens

in a court of law."37 Kathy Fitzpatrick, a public relations practitioner and lawyer, agrees

saying, "Once a company's reputation is destroyed, it may not matter if any lawsuits are

filed."38 She describes the traditional public relations way of responding to accusations

and rebuilding credibility as a five step process: state company policy on the issue,

investigate the allegations, be candid, voluntarily admit that a problem exists, if true, and

announce/implement corrective measures as fast as possible.39

Veteran public relations people know that those who "demonstrate the ability to

communicate early, lead the public debate and establish themselves as a credible source

have the best opportunity to win in the court of public opinion."40 Certain public

relations techniques also can help an organization win in a court of law. One litigation

public relations counselor has developed a communication process for mitigating legal,

media relations and political consequences following a damaging situation:



37 Magid.

38 Fitzpatrick, Kathy, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management,"
Public Relations Quarterly, Summer 1995: 33.

39 Fitzpatrick, Kathy and Rubin, Maureen, "Public Relations vs. Legal Strategies in
Organizational Crisis Decisions," Public Relations Review, Spring 1995, 22.

40 DeMartino.









Admit a problem exists and state that something will be done to fix it.

Explain why the problem occurred and the known reasons for it.

Commit to regularly report additional information.

Declare the organization's specific steps to address the issues.

State "regret, empathy, sympathy or even embarrassment" by taking
responsibility, if appropriate, for having allowed the situation to occur.

Ask the government, the community, and opponents for help.

Publicly set or reset goals at zero-"zero errors, zero defects, zero dumb
decisions, zero problems."

Find a way to make restitution quickly because situations remedied quickly
cost a lot less and are controversial for much shorter periods of time.41

Balancing Legal and Public Relations Communication Strategies

A strictly legal communication strategy can have a very negative effect on the

public's perception of an organization in crisis. An overly cautious attorney can "thwart

efforts at communicating a company's message by precluding all but the most banal

public comments and eviscerating carefully crafted news releases."42 And although it is

true that what people say can be used against them in a court of law, "anything you do not

say can be used against you in the court of public opinion."43 This is especially

important in crises which involve loss of life. One crisis communication expert writes:

"Show concern for the families. Treat survivors compassionately. Provide them with as


41 James Lukaszewski, "Managing Litigation Visibility: How To Avoid Lousy Trial
Publicity," Public Relations Quarterly, Spring 1995: 23.

42 Magid.

43 Fearn-Banks, 97.









much information as possible. Keep them informed about the investigation of the

incident ... Don't let possible legal liabilities interfere with presenting a human face."44

From a media relations view, refusing to tell one's own side of the story can be

suicidal to an organization. "Journalists abhor a void," says a senior vice president at

Fleishman-Hillard, a leading public relations firm, "and will fill it with or without your

cooperation."45 What is worse is that the media will often find an organization's

opponent to be more cooperative. As one author put it, "Never doubt the resourcefulness

of your adversaries, nor the willingness of the public to believe the worst of the best

companies."46 An Air Force lawyer with a background in mass communication agrees,

saying that the Air Force "can't afford NOT to play-the 'other side' will whether or not

we do."47 And although the Air Force traditionally does not try cases in the media,

another Air Force lawyer recognizes that "we can't routinely let incorrect statements

stand in the media."48





44 Marion Pinsdorf, "Crashes Bare Values Affecting Response Success," Public
Relations Journal, July 1991: 33.

45 DeMartino.

46 Pinsdorf, Communicating When Your Company Is Under Siege: Surviving Public
Crisis,4.

47 Swanson, James, Air Education and Training Command Staff Judge Advocate,
personal email, 15 Aug. 1997

48 Rives, Jack, Air Force Judge Advocate General School commandant, personal
telephone conversation, 14 Jul. 1997.









Bolstering these opinions are data from two studies. A recent Opinion Research

Corporation study showed that "58% of the public believe that a large company is guilty

when its spokesperson responds with 'no comment' to charges of wrongdoing."49 A

1993 national survey to measure public perception of corporate crises pushed the number

up to 65% who said that "when a company spokesperson declines to comment, it almost

always means that the company is guilty of wrongdoing."50 Such reaction from the

American public is natural. As one author put it, "The public believes that an innocent

man can answer a policeman's questions without having a lawyer present. After all, what

does he have to hide?"51 It is for this reason that most public relations people advocate a

strategy that says, "You may not be able to say much, but you can say something. If all

the facts aren't there, get out and say so."52 And some attorneys also believe that "'no

comment' is the least appropriate and least productive response ... it adds absolutely

nothing and leaves the public with a negative impression."53 Similarly, although the Air

Force will often decline to discuss certain types of information, it instructs spokespersons

not to use "no comment" because "you will sound and look guilty."54



49 DeMartino.

50 Maynard, Roberta, "Handling a Crisis Effectively," Nation's Business, Dec. 1993: 54.

51 Fearn-Banks, 97.

52 Warner, Hal, as cited in Maynard, 54.

53 Shapiro, Robert, "Using the Media to Your Advantage," The Champion, Jan./Feb.
1993, 8.


54 Air Force Instruction 35-206 at 2.17.









An example of a company who failed to "get out and say so" is Dow Corning,

which has lost millions in settling claims over its silicone breast implants and which has

been criticized for not releasing factual information soon enough. 55 Another example of

a company that has come under fire for withholding information is Rockwell

International, the major contractor for the space shuttle. Following the 1986 Challenger

explosion, the company instituted a nearly complete news blackout, even refusing to

release basic facts about the shuttle program.56

One example of a company which lost in the legal courts partly because it lost in

the court of public opinion is Denny's. Even after more than 4,300 individual claims of

racial discrimination in its restaurants, Denny's public statement said, "Our company

does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Any time evidence of such behavior is

brought to our attention, we investigate and appropriate disciplinary action is taken."57

This denial, in the face of evidence or perception of the opposite, contributed to the $43.7

million Denny's forked out to settle the class-action suit. 58



55 Rumptz, Mark; Leland, Robb; McFaul, Sheila; Solinski, Renee and Pratt, Cornelius,
"A Public Relations Nightmare: Dow Corning Offers Too Little, Too Late," Public
Relations Quarterly, Summer 1992: 30.

56 Kaufman, John, "Rockwell Fails in Response to Shuttle Disaster," Public Relations
Review, Winter 1988: 8.

57 Denny's Nation's Restaurant News, Vol. 27, No. 14 (April 5, 1993), p. 5 as cited in
Woods, 9.

58 "Denny's Settles Claims in Discrimination Complaints for Record $46 Million," Jet,
13 Jun. 1994, 6 as cited in Woods, Gail Baker, "It Could Happen to You: A Framework
for Understanding and Managing Crises Involving Race," paper submitted to the Public
Relations Society of America, 10 Jun. 1996, 8.









Still another example of an organization that damaged its own image before the

court battle began was Sears, which in 1992 faced accusations that its automotive centers

were regularly overcharging customers. Sears immediately denied the charges. The

company later softened its response, but the damage already was done. According to

Meyers, "They apparently thought the lawyers would take care of it and that they'd be a

success in a court of law, but in a situation like this that should be way down your list of

priorities."59

In fairness, not all lawyers recommend the "no comment" approach. There are

lawyers who "realize that a defendant can win a battle in a court of law and lose in the

court of public opinion"60 and who "appreciate that there is no point in protecting a

company legally if consumer confidence is so undermined that there is no company left to

protect by the time a case comes to court."61 Perhaps they know that, because the court

of public opinion can be very influential in determining the success or failure of a

company, it is possible to win the legal battle but lose the war. That very reason was

behind the decision by the owners of a Florida restaurant who decided not to prosecute a

teenager who had spread rumors about the establishment which resulted in a drastic cut in

business. The teenager publicly apologized and company officials felt that if they did

proceed with legal action, it would have been perceived in the community as "the



59 Stevenson, Richard, "Sears Ducks, Then Tries to Cover," The New York Times, 17
Jun. 1992.

60 Fearn-Banks, 98.


61 Birch, 33.









powerful restaurant ruining the life of a well-meaning child who made a mistake in

judgment."62

Some lawyers, including famed defense attorney Robert Shapiro, believe that

"there is no question that media coverage can and does affect the ultimate outcome of

widely publicized cases" and that influencing the media can be just as consequential as

convincing judges and juries.63 Other attorneys agree, including one former U.S.

Attorney who, in response to Kenneth Starrff's communication tactics in investigating

allegations that President Clinton lied under oath and obstructed justice, said "The

public's perception of how a case is handled is very important. That's half the battle in

high-profile cases."64

As described in the section on conflict resolution, it is possible to end up with a

lose-lose situation as well. This happened in 1997, when the Air Force went forward with

court martial proceedings against the nation's first female bomber pilot for offenses

which included lying, disobedience and adultery, a case that "boomeranged against the

military in the court of public opinion."65 The pilot, First Lieutenant Kelly Flinn, hired a

lawyer and public relations firm to plead her case with the news media and succeeded in



62 Fearns-Bank, 98.

63 Shapiro, 12.

64 Bronner, Ethan, "Testing of a President," The New York Times, Feb. 14, 1998, Al.

65 Kempster, Norman, "Air Force Seeks to Avert Adultery Case Dogfight; Military:
Female B-52 Pilot is Offered Chance to Resign in Lieu of Court-Martial and End
Awkward Issue for Both Sides," Los Angeles Times, 16 May 1997.









"framing the case as one of a hide-bound military establishment willing to destroy her

career and throw her in jail because, as she put it, 'I fell in love with the wrong man.'"66

She succeeded, in part, due to the fact that her privacy rights combined with legal

interpretations of statutory restrictions effectively muzzled the Air Force.67 In fact,

"despite warnings from senior people in public affairs that the service was going to get its

clock cleaned in the court of public opinion, Air Force lawyers insisted that the service

basically do nothing to tell its side of the story."68 Still, military spokespersons did what

they could to emphasize to the media and to the public that the crux of the court action

was on the lying and disobedience charges, not the adultery charge. Still, the public

initially took Flinn's side-in a Gallup Poll taken during the controversy, 62% of those

surveyed were sympathetic to the pilot.69 In response to mounting public and

congressional pressure, the Air Force opted for a general discharge for Lt. Flinn instead of

proceeding with the court martial, sparing itself the "national embarrassment of court-

martialing her amid a rising storm of public protest."70 Surprisingly, the tide began to



66 Richter, Paul and Savage, David, "Courts-Martial Common in Cases Similar to
Pilot's: Military: Experts Contradict Female Flier's Claim of Unfair Treatment, But AF is
not Seen as Blameless for the Record," Los Angeles Times, 22 May 1997.

67 James, Byron, briefing to the Public Affairs Leadership Course, Oct. 1997.

68 "Almost a bad memory," Air Force Times, 15 Dec. 1997.

69 Kalb, Bernard, "Discussion on the Aftermath of the Media Assault on Minot Air Force
Base" CNN Reliable Sources, 25 May 1997.

70 Beck, Joan, "She's Gone, but the Issue Hangs in the Air," Chicago Tribune, 25 May
1997.









turn against Flinn once more of the prosecutor's information was released to the public.

Even so, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll indicated that 53% of respondents felt the Air

Force mishandled the situation.71 In analyzing this crisis, one journalist summed up the

case by saying, "If the Air Force made a mistake in Flinn's case, it was in not recognizing

sooner when a public relations battle was so far lost that it was no longer worth

fighting."72 The end result was that the Air Force lost not only its control over the

military justice system, but lost public image points as well.

There are many advantages to using a proactive public relations strategy during

crises. Although not entirely without criticism, Johnson & Johnson's use of such

techniques in response to the Tylenol cyanide crisis has long been extolled as a textbook

response to a crisis. The company made efforts to answer all media inquiries, halted all

Tylenol advertising and posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The result was that the brand name went on to quickly regain its 37% share of the pain-

reliever market.73 But perhaps most importantly, from a crisis communication point of

view, the CEO voluntarily associated himself with the negative story. And ever since,









71 James.

72 Whiting, Charles, "Goodbye and Good Riddance to Air Force's Insubordinate Lt.
Flinn," Star Tribune, 23 May 97.

73 Berg and Robb, 100.









says one author, "the media have come to expect the senior managers to deal with reports,

to be accessible and to supply all the answers."74

Certainly a proactive public relations strategy can be effective in countering what

is automatically a stacked deck against organizations involved in crises, and as a result it

has been the battle cry for years by seasoned public relations practitioners. The reality is

that organizations are automatically assumed to be guilty-"courts, judges, other

participants in the process and the news media tend to look at them as suspects."75 One

study revealed that more than 33% of those surveyed think that a company is "probably

guilty" if accused of doing something wrong.76 Again, in commenting on the

importance of good media relations, Shapiro has said initial headlines "often make the

sacred presumption of innocence a myth. In reality, we have the assumption of guilt."77

The public's close scrutiny of crisis management may indicate that "the damage

inflicted on a corporate reputation is determined more by its handling of the crisis than by

the seriousness of the crisis itself," and that people "don't evaluate you on whether you

make mistakes, but on how you fix them."78 Furthermore, people are not very confident



74 "CIBA Opens its Culture, and its Mind," Reputation Management, Nov/Dec 1996,
(http:// www.register. com/prcentral/rmndcrisis.htm).

75 Lukaszewski, "Managing Litigation Visibility: How To Avoid Lousy Trial Publicity,"
19.

76 DeMartino.

77 Shapiro, 8.

78 "CIBA Opens its Culture, and its Mind."









that companies in crises tell the truth either. A 1993 survey of 1,000 American adults

revealed that more than half of the respondents thought that companies withhold

information or give out false information when facing a crisis.79 What is even more

important, however, is that people may be more upset over such communication tactics

than they are about the actual crisis. The same study yielded 95% of respondents saying

that "they are more offended when a company lies about a crisis than they are about the

crisis itself."80 This is one area in which the military may have a better reputation than its

corporate counterparts. A 1995 national survey of more than 350 journalists by The

Freedom Forum First Amendment Center indicated that 84% of respondents believed that

military personnel are honest when dealing with the news media.81

Unfortunately, some communicators naively think that "the power of public

opinion will pull all else with it, including the courts of public and judicial opinion" not

realizing that relying completely on the traditional proactive public relations approach can

be dangerous. 82 As one lawyer cautions, "Just as a public relations disaster may result








79 Maynard, 55.

80 Maynard, 54.

81 Aukofer, Frank and Lawrence, William, America's Team The Odd Couple: A Report
on the Relationship Between the Media and the Military, (Vanderbilt Unversity: The
Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, 1995) 32.

82 Cooper, 40.









when lawyers ignore reputation issues, public relations professionals who fail to

recognize the legal issues in a crisis put their client at considerable risk."83

Not only can practitioners unwittingly place their clients at jeopardy in a court of

law, but they "must carefully watch what they say, must be sure the information is

complete and honest, and must consider as many ramifications as time and deadline

pressure permits. Often an innocent quote today is later recycled out of context."84 Such

was the case 50 years ago when a military public information officer issued a news

release saying that officials from Roswell Army Air Field in New Mexico had recovered

a "flying disc."85 The following day a second military news release was issued saying

that the object recovered was just a weather balloon, but the damage was done. These

initial public affairs actions were the catalyst for rumors that still continue five decades

later and are responsible, in part, for the fact that 64% of Americans surveyed in a recent

Time/USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll do not believe the Air Force's explanation of the

Roswell incident.86

As discussed, lawyers are naturally concerned about any statements made that

would imply culpability during a crisis. Of course there can be advantages to admitting



83 Magid.

84 Pinsdorf, Communicating When Your Company Is Under Siege: Surviving Public
Crisis, 58.

85 Mendoza, Martha, "This Town Cashes in on the Alien Mystique," Air Force Times, 7
Jul. 1997.

86 CNN Headline News, 23 Jul. 1997.









guilt quickly, especially when an organization is responsible for a crisis. When one child

died and more than 300 people were sickened by E. coli bacteria linked to Jack in the

Box hamburgers in 1993, "it took nearly a week for the company to admit publicly its

responsibility for the poisonings."87 The company at first tried traditional legal strategies

of deflecting blame to state health authorities, then to its meat supplier. The result of the

mishandled public relations response was that "nervous customers defected to other

burger joints in droves." In contrast, when Odwalla Inc. went through a similar crisis in

1996 when one baby girl died from drinking apple juice containing E. coli, the company

received high marks for public relations. The company was credited with "moving

quickly to institute a voluntary recall, cooperating with the Food and Drug

Administration, offering to pay the medical expenses of victims affected by contaminated

Odwalla products, ... offering to refund the purchase price of any of the company's

drinks, even those not being recalled, and for being responsive to the media."88 The

crisis did result in individual and class-action lawsuits against Odwalla, but the family of

the dead girl did not pursue any litigation, saying they did not blame the company.

Although the family's decision was made largely for religious reasons, they lauded the

company's efforts to meet with them, pay the girl's medical expenses, set up a fund in the

girl's memory and renovate a park where the girl used to play.89



87 "Boxed in at Jack in the Box," Business Week, 15 Feb. 1993: 40.

88 Howe, Kenneth, "Odwalla Gets High Marks for Concern," The San Francisco
Chronicle, 2 Nov. 1996.

89 Simpson, Kevin, "After Tragic Loss, Couple Looks Forward to New Joy," The Denver
Post, 20 Jul. 1997.









But, when responsibility for a crisis is not the company's fault or if responsibility

has not been determined yet, the last thing a company wants to do is inadvertently say

something that could be perceived as an admission of guilt. Spokespersons should never

"speculate about cause, consequences or liability."90 Indeed, Air Force public affairs

officers are to "refrain from discussing Air Force negligence or liability" following an

accident.91 Says one lawyer, "Companies should definitely express their concern, but

that doesn't mean you have to take responsibility for whatever is happening to them if the

responsibility actually lies elsewhere."92 There is a way, as many practitioners know, to

"vehemently deny any fault while at the same time expressing remorse that a problem has

occurred."93 The art of "apologia," which may or may not include an apology, seeks to

rephrase existing charges against a company into a more favorable context94 or to

"demonstrate the company's concern for the affected parties and avoid public anger

directed at the organization."95 Various techniques can be effective. Using words like

"bad judgment," "mistake" or others that have "relatively insignificant ethical



90 Fitzpatrick, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management," 36.

91 Air Force Instruction 35-102, Crisis Planning, Management and Response, 22 Jun.
1994 at 6.8.

92 "CIBA Opens its Culture, and its Mind."

93 Fitzpatrick and Rubin, 22.

94 Hearit, Keith, "Apologies and Public Relations Crises at Chrysler, Toshiba, and
Volvo," Public Relations Review, Summer 1994: 115.

95 Fitzpatrick, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management," 36.









implications" is one technique.96 Another technique is to issue statements of regret

which "simultaneously express sorrow for what has happened yet minimize corporate

responsibility for wrongdoing."97 However, "words like ashamed, concerned,

disappointed, regret, sad, tragic, unfortunate, unintended, and unnecessary don't seem to

come easily to the lips of corporate executives or spokespeople."98

This technique is not without danger either, however. It is possible to overdo it

with "too much mea culpa," making people "wonder what manner of wimp is running

things."99 Some people have criticized Texaco CEO Peter Bijur for admitting guilt too

quickly following Texaco's racial crisis. Even though he didn't know what was on the

tapes-much of which turned out to be indecipherable-he apologized publicly and agreed

to form a special panel to look at the company's diversity programs. 100 Although the

initial story was relatively short lived and the company's stock bounced back after only

three weeks, some felt Bijur capitulated too easily by "unnecessarily giving away $176

million that belonged to Texaco's shareholders," losing control over his own employment

policies and perhaps creating a wider rift between black and white employees, all without



96 Hearit, 116.

97 Hearit, 117.

98 Lukaszewski, "Managing Litigation Visibility: How To Avoid Lousy Trial Publicity,"
21.

99 Pinsdorf, Communicating When Your Company Is Under Siege: Surviving Public
Crisis, 92.

100 Bennett, Robert, "Texaco's Bijur: Hero or Sellout?," PR Strategist, Winter 1996: 18.









a guarantee that no more payments would be required or that the activist groups would

decrease their pressure on the company. 101


The Relationship Between Public Relations Practitioners and Lawyers


The Corporate Relationship

In 1996, Fitzpatrick published findings from a survey of 1,000 public relations

practitioners regarding their relationship with lawyers. The data from the 376 responses

she received indicated that, of the nearly 85% who worked regularly with an attorney,

more than 40% described the relationship as "excellent" and nearly 45% described the

relationship as "good." The remaining 15% described their relationship as "fair" or

"poor."102 She concluded that these data could suggest "an increased appreciation by

public relations professionals and attorneys for the other's function and/or a shared

recognition of the need for a more interdisciplinary approach to organizational decision-

making."103 Her argument is substantiated by the fact that those who did report an

excellent or good relationship were those who worked with lawyers the most.

As demonstrated, because lawyers and public relations practitioners sometimes

have different goals, conflict between the two is occasionally inevitable. But again,

Fitzpatrick says that in reality these conflicts are usually resolved through


101 Bennett, 19.

102 Fitzpatrick, Kathy, "Public Relations and the Law: A Survey of Practitioners," Public
Relations Review, Spring 1996: 6.

103 Fitzpatrick, "Public Relations and the Law," 7.









cooperation. 104 Of those she surveyed who had experienced a conflict with a lawyer on

a general course of action, more than 39% said that the final decision "was a compromise

or joint decision of public relations and legal counsel," 35% said that a company official

made the final decision, eight percent said that they themselves made the decision, nine

percent said that the lawyer made the final call, and about 10% said the conflict was

resolved by some other means.

However, during litigation the numbers showed a marked increase in an attorney's

influence in a decision involving public communication. Although more than 45% of the

respondents reported that joint decisions were made regarding public relations activities

during litigation, more than 25% of the time lawyers made the final decision and public

relations personnel only made the final decision about three percent of the time. 105

These figures support one author's view that "public relations in support of litigation is

the most sensitive and least understood element of lawyer/PR collaboration."106

Fitzpatrick warns that her study shows lawyers are encroaching on the public relations

field and indicates that "in situations involving conflicts with legal counsel over the

public release of information ... the reality is that public relations professionals are not

playing lead roles in these instances. "107



104 Fitzpatrick, "Public Relations and the Law," 5.

105 Fitzpatrick, "Public Relations and the Law," 6.

106 Roschwalb and Stack, 3.

107 Fitzpatrick, "Public Relations and the Law," 7.









So although it appears that lawyers and public relations practitioners usually do

work well together and compromise on day-to-day public relations decisions, it also

seems that, during crises, public relations practitioners are not relied upon as the

communication experts. Such encroachment by the legal community concerns John

Budd, a former public relations practitioner who is now the CEO of the Omega Group.

He believes that

no matter the choice of decision, public relations must be the architect of the
communications-in both content and context ... The signals called are primarily-
and properly-by the lawyers. But, public relations has a legitimate role in
assessing the long-term impact of perceived guilt on the company's-and the
CEO's-credibility and reputation and a responsibility for adding this pivotal
consideration to the decision-making process. 108

Also of concern to communicators is that, though there seems to be much

compromising going on between lawyers and public relations practitioners, another study

by Fitzpatrick and Rubin suggests that public relations people are doing more

compromising than the lawyers. They conducted a content analysis of 39 sexual

harassment crises and reported that in nearly two-thirds of the cases studied, traditional

legal strategies, not public relations strategies, were used by spokespersons. 109











108 Budd, John, Jr., "GUILTY Until Proven Innocent: Litigation Journalism Tests
Public Relations Acumen," Public Relations Quarterly, Summer, 1994: 13.

109 Fitzpatrick and Rubin, 21.









The Air Force Relationship

There are currently approximately 400 public affairs officers and 1,300 judge

advocates serving in the Air Force.110 Little research beyond "lessons learned" from

specific crises has been conducted on the relationship between public affairs and legal

functions. Some knowledge can be obtained, however, by examining the two career

fields.

Newly acquired public affairs officers and judge advocates both receive

specialized military training in their respective fields. The Public Affairs Officer Course

at Fort Meade, MD, does have lesson plans which address some legal/mass

communication issues such as libel and slander, The Privacy Act, The Freedom of

Information Act, courts martial and criminal investigations. 111 The school does not have

any specific lesson plans which address the relationship between public affairs and

lawyers or the balance between public affairs and legal counsel, although one class

devoted to crisis communication and accident response includes mentioning that "PA and

Legal need to coordinate closely on those issues."1 12 Similarly, the Judge Advocate

General School at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, does not have any specific curriculum

units dedicated to the relationship between the two fields, but judge advocate students do





110 "U.S. Air Force Almanac 1997," Tamar Mehuron, ed., Air Force Magazine, May
1997: 34.

111 Kelly, Mike, Defense Information School Instructor, personal email, 3 Feb. 1998.

112 Kelly, Mike, Defense Information School Instructor, personal email, 21 Apr 97.









get a one-hour block of training regarding public affairs. 113 Students also receive

briefings on such things as media relations and professional ethics, and managing the

flow of information during highly-publicized court proceedings. 114

The rank structure inherent in the military could affect the relationship since judge

advocates usually outrank public affairs officers. This disparity of rank, and with it a

corresponding disparity of power and influence, can be seen from the lower levels-the

individual Air Force base-to the highest level where the senior Air Force lawyer is a two-

star general while the top Air Force public affairs officer is only a one-star general. One

possible reason for this disparity between the two fields may reflect the fact that, although

public relations has been practiced for centuries, the legal vocation is older and more

recognized as a profession. 115 Another reason could be the amount of higher education

each brings to the table. At the entry level, all public affairs officers and judge advocates

are required to have an undergraduate degree and receive technical training at Department

of Defense and Air Force schools. But, the lawyers also must earn a law degree prior to

becoming a judge advocate.

Air Force regulations occasionally address the relationship between military

lawyers and public affairs officers, usually in the context of guidance regarding specific

crises. For instance, media relations guidance for public affairs officers directs them to


113 Davies, Kirk, Military Justice Division, Judge Advocate General School, personal
email, 9 Feb. 1998.

114 Shepherd, Dennis, Staff Judge Advocate Course Director, personal email, 21 Apr.
1997.

115 Fearn-Banks, 98.









coordinate closely with judge advocates "before releasing any information" prior to a

trial. 116 And while the guidance is somewhat detailed at times concerning what

information is releasable and what information must be withheld regarding legal issues, a

catch-all phrase still instructs public affairs officers to "seek the advice of the staff judge

advocate on matters not clearly addressed here...." 117 Such instructions imply a very

active role by judge advocates regarding public affairs decisions. This implication could

be evidence that, in issues involving legal concerns, the real decision-making authority

regarding public affairs lies with the legal community, not the public affairs community.

Regardless, the bottom line is that the Air Force is supposed to "balance public interest in

the administration of justice against the accused's right to a fair trial and right to privacy"

when determining whether to release information regarding a criminal proceeding. 118

Finding Common Ground


Many lawyers and public relations people recognize the advantages of working

together and know "what horses pulling beer wagons have long known-that it is easier

and more productive to pull together." 119 Creighton Magid is one such attorney who

believes that "a client is best served if legal and communications counsel work in concert,




116 Air Force Instruction 35-206 at 1.7.7.

117 Air Force Instruction 35-206 at 1.7.7.4.

118 Air Force Instruction 51-2, Administration of Military Justice, 7 Sep. 1993 at 1.13.

119 Roschwalb and Stack, 5.









with an appreciation of the concerns each faces." 120 Indeed, the Air Force Judge

Advocate General states that "PA and JA offices, like all other staff agencies, are working

toward the same goal. That is, to provide commanders with the best possible

consolidated professional advice on issues impacting mission accomplishment."121 And

Fitzpatrick believes that, although lawyers and public relations people "often disagree on

the best approach to crisis communications, each plays a valuable role in ensuring a

company's success in surviving a crisis with both its reputation and legal standing

intact."122 These and other professionals who believe in a balanced legal and public

relations approach indicate that education, training and planning are key to achieving that

balance.

Education and Training

Although there are some public relations practitioners who do have both

communications and legal training, most public relations people usually do not have a

grasp of the law. Again, Fitzpatrick has some startling data. Her study of practitioners

asked respondents about their familiarity with categories of U.S. law that could impact

their organization and the majority said that they were just "somewhat" or "not at all"

familiar. 123 Other results include:



120 Magid.

121 Hawley, Bryan, Memorandum to the Air Force Director of Public Affairs, 3 Nov.
1997.

122 Fitzpatrick, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management," 34.

123 Fitzpatrick, "Public Relations and the Law," 3.









More than one-half (51.1%) indicated no familiarity with SEC regulations; more
than 40% reported no familiarity with commercial speech (41.1%), financial
public relations (45.3%) or professional malpractice (48.0%); more than one-third
(34.9%) said they were "not at all" familiar with contracts, and slightly more than
21% reported no familiarity with access to information laws.

One could say that, with such a lack of knowledge regarding law, it is not surprising that,

in cases of conflict with lawyers during litigation, lawyers often have the upper hand in

public relations decisions. Indeed, it is partly this lack of knowledge that Fitzpatrick

suggests is leading communicators to make themselves and their clients legally liable. 124

Nevertheless, she argues that ignorance is no excuse, and that "in order to provide

effective representation, practitioners must acquaint themselves with the legal issues

involved both in their client organizations' operations and in communications."125 The

way to do this, of course, is interdisciplinary training for lawyers and public relations

people because they "must begin to understand their respective roles in order to use the

strengths of both professions. "126 According to Fitzpatrick, those communicators who

are most successful during crises "do not rely totally on attorneys ... They recognize the

importance of becoming legally literate themselves and seek out professional

development opportunities in this area." 127




124 Fitzpatrick, "Public Relations and the Law," 7.

125 Fitzpatrick, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management" 34.

126 Roschwalb and Stack, 5.


127 Fitzpatrick, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management" 34.









And although most lawyers do not have any mass communication training either,

more and more are recognizing the benefits of learning how to do public relations. The

American Bar Association provides media training for its officers, and many lawyers now

view public relations as one of the tools at their disposal to help win a case. Certainly

Shapiro is one of many attorneys who believe that "the lawyer's role as a spokesperson

may be equally important to the outcome of a case as the skills of an advocate in the

courtroom." 128 These attorneys may look to public relations experts for assistance just

as they seek help from psychologists, jury selection consultants, forensic scientists, and

others. 129 Indeed, one New York State Supreme Court justice has commented that

"lawyers now feel it is the essence of their function to try the case in the public

media."130 Air Force defense attorney Capt. Joseph Cazenavette agrees, saying he

"wouldn't be surprised if defense counsels decide to go to the media more often,"

especially in situations like Lt. Flinn's adultery case. 131 Some attorneys also believe

public relations can benefit attorneys not only by supporting their cases in the court of







128 Shapiro, 7.

129 Stein, M.L., "Lawyer Says It's OK to Lie To the Media," Editor and Publisher, 28
Aug. 1993: 10.

130 Hoffman, Jan, "May It Please the Public: Lawyers Exploit Media Attention as a
Defense Tactic," The New York Times, 22 Apr. 1994.

131 "Defense Lawyers Find 'Court of Public Opinion' Can Protect Their Clients," Air
Force Times, 28 Jul. 1997.









public opinion, but also by improving the image of the legal profession and marketing

legal services to potential clients. 132

The Air Force already has begun some occasional cross-training between the two

fields, reflecting the fact that "JA needs to be more conscious of the public affairs role

and public affairs officers need to be savvy about the military justice system."133 Public

affairs officers have spoken at the Judge Advocate General School and judge advocates

have spoken at some public affairs conferences. Recognizing the value of such

opportunities, both sides are currently in the process of offering more. A media guide

will be distributed to all Air Force legal offices, and coordination is underway to put

information, not only about the military justice system in general but also facts about

ongoing high-visibility court cases, on the Internet. 134 The Air Force also is

establishing a Public Affairs Center for Excellence to conduct research and further

develop the public affairs curriculum taught to officers as part of their professional

military education. 135 Additionally, in the wake of recent cases which have attracted

intense media scrutiny, public affairs officers and judge advocates have been aggressive

in hosting background briefings with journalists to educate them on legal terms and the

military justice system. Recently, a symposium was held at the Judge Advocate General

School to discuss how the media affect the administration of military justice, attended by


132 Roschwalb and Stack, 5.

133 Rives.

134 Rives.









senior Air Force lawyers, public affairs officers and Lt. Flinn's defense attorney. Some

senior public affairs officers and attorneys also are trying to convince Air Force officials

to "loosen up" their interpretation of laws and regulations that traditionally have muzzled

the Air Force from telling its side of the story. 136

Planning

The first rule of many crisis communicators is borrowed from the Boy Scouts: be

prepared. 137 This is doubly true in a crisis where there is "little time for group meetings

or consensus."138 Over and over again this sort of statement is echoed:

"advocates can avoid turf problems during crises by establishing a positive
relationship before crisis strikes"'39

"when legal proceedings begin, particularly those involving high-profile
individuals, a strategy concerning the media must be jointly planned"140

"encourage management to involve its corporate lawyers early in the crisis
planning process ... it is then possible to set guidelines for what can and
cannot be said when a crisis does happen"141



135 Ivy, Jack, Air University director of public affairs, personal telephone conversation,
21 Jan. 1998.
136 Whitaker, Johnny, Air Combat Command Director of Public Affairs, personal email,
12 Nov. 1997.

137 "Crisis Public Relations," Dun's Business Month, Aug. 1983: 50.

138 Budd, 13.

139 Fitzpatrick, "Ten Guidelines for Reducing Legal Risks in Crisis Management," 34.

140 Roschwalb and Stack, 5.


141 Birch, 32.









"the necessity of merging law and public relations leads to an even greater
need for pre-crisis planning by representatives in both fields" 142

commanders, staff judge advocates and public affairs officers must "work
together at every step" 143

Similarly, Air Force attorney James Swanson has stated that "it has never been more

critical for judge advocates and public affairs officers, under the direction of

commanders, to formulate and pre-plan cohesive media responses that tell the Air Force

story as completely and persuasively as possible, yet at the same time do not impinge

upon or impair the judicial process. That is a balance, I am convinced, that can be

struck."144 But given the importance of planning, a 1995 survey of public relations

practitioners found that less than 60% "worked in organizations with written crisis

plans."145 Although this is up 10% from a similar survey conducted 10 years ago, it is

unknown how many of the crisis plans actually encourage cooperation between lawyers

and communicators. Similarly, although nearly all Air Force public affairs offices have

what are known as "crash kits" which include detailed plans for aircraft accidents, natural

disasters and other such crises, it is unknown how many offices have a corresponding

plan for dealing with legal crises like high-visibility courts martial and criminal

investigations.


142 Fearn-Banks, 99.

143 Swanson.

144 Swanson.

145 Guth, David, "Organizational Crisis Experience and Public Relations Roles," Public
Relations Review, Summer 1995: 132 as cited in Woods, 4.









Summary


The literature regarding conflict theory examines the variables that affect the

course of conflict, including the characteristics of the parties in conflict, their prior

relationship to one another, the nature of the issue giving rise to the conflict, the social

environment within which the conflict occurs, the interested audiences to the conflict, the

strategy and tactics employed by the parties in the conflict, and the consequences of the

conflict to each of the participants and to other interested parties. Conflict resolution can

take several different forms -- among them forcing (win-lose), compromise (lose-lose), or

problem-solving (win-win) -- which determines whether the results will be productive or

destructive. Problem-solving methods are the most likely to achieve productive

consequences, and organizations can use various techniques to encourage such behavior

including the sharing of information; the review and adjustment of the conditions that

promote cooperation versus conflict; the review and adjustment of the perception,

feelings and attitudes between parties; mutual determination of the problem,

nonjudgmental generation of potential solutions; evaluation of the solutions; and

agreement on the final decision.

The literature shows conflict can and does occur between public relations

professionals and lawyers, especially during crises, and that there are advantages and

disadvantages to using either a strictly legal or a strictly public relations response. As

conflict theory suggests, the best results occur when a combined approach is used by

lawyers and public relations people who work closely together in cooperation. Although

much of the research regarding the relationship between lawyers and public relations









people in corporate service is self-reported by public relations people themselves, it

indicates that a relatively good relationship exists, but that problems still remain which

can affect how an organization fares in both a court of law and the court of public

opinion. Professionals and researchers from both areas agree that interdisciplinary

training among lawyers and public relations practitioners and planning between the two

before crises occur are needed to improve the relationship, further validating conflict

theorists who propose similar techniques to resolving conflict. The literature review also

suggests possible characteristics of conflict (different objectives, the withholding of

information, lack of education or training regarding the other side's area of expertise,

competition over saying too much versus saying too little, lawyers encroaching on the

public relations function), ways to resolve such conflicts (forcing, compromising or

problems solving), and possible destructive or productive results.

Research Questions


There are no data on the relationship between Air Force public affairs and legal

functions. However, the literature review allows one to assume that, although in general

public affairs officers and judge advocates work well together, some conflict exists

between the two functions that may result in destructive consequences for the Air Force

as a whole. This study itself generated conflict between the two functions at the highest

Air Force level when the legal community refused to officially support the research

because some feared the survey questions had the potential of "artificially creating a

perception that PA and JA offices are 'opponents' when it comes to public relations









issues." 146 Using conflict theory as a model, destructive results occur when the Air

Force as a whole loses in a court of law, the court of public opinion, or both; and

productive results occur when the Air Force wins in both courts. Finally the literature

suggests ways to encourage organizations to limit the destructive effects of conflict and

use problem-solving techniques. Such tactics include meetings between the two to adjust

perceptions and attitudes, interdisciplinary education and/or training, information sharing,

joint planning, discussion of alternative solutions, and building consensus.

However, these assumptions should be explored further because the literature

does not indicate what actually holds true for the U.S. Air Force. Specific questions need

to be answered before making recommendations on how to improve the relationship

between the two so that the Air Force, as an organization, is better served. The questions

include the following: What are the characteristics and frequency of conflict between the

two? How is such conflict usually resolved? What are the usual results to the Air Force

as a whole? And finally, how can the Air Force decrease the amount of conflict between

public affairs and legal functions or productively resolve existing conflicts?
















146 Hawley, Bryan, Air Force Judge Advocate General, Memorandum to the Air Force
Director of Public Affairs, 3 Nov. 1997.















CHAPTER 3
MATERIALS AND METHODS


Research Design and Sampling


An on-line survey was conducted of Air Force public affairs officers, judge

advocates and commanders. At the time of the survey, approximately 400 public affairs

officers, 1,300 judge advocates and 160 commanders (wing level and above) were serving

on active duty in the Air Force. Population lists with name, rank and location were

provided by the Air Force, and a census was taken of the public affairs officers and

commanders. A random sample of approximately 425 judge advocates was taken using

skip increments. After the judge advocate sample was taken, the researcher realized that

the population list provided by Air Force did not include any generals. Since the most

senior lawyers would likely have the most impact on Air Force policy, the researcher

added the names of these five officers to the random sample.

A few design concerns existed. A recent survey of mailing lists by a commercial

firm found only 37% of electronic mail addresses were accurate at any given time. 1 And

although another company which develops and markets electronic-survey software and






1 Compton, David, Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs Technology Team,
personal email, 18 Jun 1997.









services reported between 70 and 80 percent of email addresses are accurate,2 the

researcher was concerned that some members of the survey populations would not be

reachable through electronic mail because they lack Internet access or because of out-of-

date electronic email addresses. To attempt to alleviate this concern, the researcher

traveled to the Pentagon to compile electronic mail addresses via phone and using

existing email address books. By doing so, the researcher was able to obtain what he

believed to be correct email addresses for 372 public affairs officers, 387 judge advocates

and 163 commanders. Even so, when the researcher sent the survey emails out three

weeks later, approximately 15% were returned as undeliverable. Still, this was a

improvement over the percentage of email addresses that are typically accurate in

electronic surveys. After the emails were sent out, the researcher encountered what may

be inevitable in an online survey conducted without the use of respondent identification

and password security options. A few respondents asked the researcher if they could

encourage others in their office or at their military installation to fill out the

questionnaires too. The researcher granted the requests provided only those in the target

population filled out the questionnaires. For example, when a lawyer asked if he could

refer other lawyers in his office to the survey web site, the researcher asked that he only

refer active-duty legal officers-not civilians or enlisted personnel-to ensure the integrity

of the survey population. To the researcher's knowledge, this added seven names to the

judge advocate sample. However, the researcher had no way of knowing exactly how

often this happened, since survey recipients may have referred others to the web site


2 Rudd, Robert, Decisive Technology Corporation, personal email, 9 Dec. 1997.









without informing him. As a result of undeliverable emails and the knowledge of some

people being referred to the survey, the final survey samples were 340 public affairs

officers (85% of the total population), 316 judge advocates (23% of the total population)

and 134 commanders (82% of the total population).

Another design concern was that subjects might have difficulty responding

because of random computer problems such as one or more computer servers being down

for service, busy phone lines to connect to a service provider, etc. To address this

concern, the researcher gave recipients nearly four weeks to respond so that most should

have been able to connect and complete the survey even if such random computer

problems existed at their first attempt. The researcher received 13 emails from survey

recipients who were having problems accessing the web site, but the researcher asked

them to keep trying, and since the researcher only received feedback from two of those

individuals indicating they could not connect to the web site after further tries, indications

are that most of these people eventually were able to connect. The researcher sent these

two remaining recipients email versions of the survey (with the questions as part of the

email instead of on the web page), and received their input via a return email. The

researcher received one survey response via regular mail. The researcher received 18

blank, incomplete or duplicate survey forms, indicating that either an error occurred in the

transmission, the respondent sent the response before he/she was finished, or sent the

survey response twice. These responses were not coded.

A third concern was whether the response rate would be high enough to permit

generalization to the three populations. In hopes of increasing the response rates, the









researcher asked the Air Force's top public affairs officer and the senior judge advocate to

send out a joint message encouraging commanders and their subordinates to complete the

survey. However, because the Air Force Judge Advocate General decided not to

officially support the survey, he refused to provide any endorsement. Nevertheless, the

Air Force's Director of Public Affairs did send a message out to public affairs officers

prior to the questionnaires being sent out, and the researcher personally contacted major

command public affairs officers to urge them to encourage commanders and judge

advocates to participate. Two weeks into the survey the response rate was approximately

17% so the researcher sent out reminder emails to survey recipients.

A final design concern existed regarding the survey instruments themselves.

Since survey respondents were asked for self-reported information, one could suspect that

biased information might have been obtained. However, by asking similar questions

regarding conflict among all three groups of participants-public affairs officers, judge

advocates and commanders-the data obtained are more rigorous than would have been

the case had only one group been surveyed.


Survey Instruments


Each recipient received an electronic mail (Appendix A) from the researcher

"pointing" them to the web site where the survey was stored. After approximately two

weeks the researcher sent out reminder emails (Appendix B) to recipients to encourage

survey completion. A few days before the completed questionnaires were due, the

researcher also sent out a reminder message to The Air Force PA Forum, an online

discussion group of public affairs practitioners.









The three questionnaires (Appendix C) were developed based on the literature

review and from discussions with senior Air Force public affairs officers and judge

advocates. To achieve greater validity, the questions were a combination of specific

multiple choice and open-ended formats. A few questions were group specific regarding

knowledge of legal or public affairs topics, but most questions were general to all

recipients. Demographics and/or job knowledge questions were asked in Part 1 of the

questionnaires. Part 2 included questions about the frequency and characteristics of

conflict. Respondents were asked in Part 3 about how such conflict is usually resolved

and what the usual results of conflict are for the Air Force. Finally, Part 4 of the

questionnaires requested input from respondents on how to decrease conflict or resolve

conflict better. The instruments were pretested on one or two members of each group and

minor changes were made based on the feedback received. The questions generated

some conflict in the legal community because a few senior Air Force lawyers believed the

wording of some questions implied that destructive conflict necessarily exists between

public affairs and legal functions and that the win-lose terminology used by conflict

theorists was too confrontational. Based on this feedback, the researcher changed the

wording of two questions.


Coding and Data Analysis


A sample survey response is included as Appendix D. The structure of the web

survey and a common gateway interface program allowed the submitted information from

respondents to be automatically converted into numerical data, which then was mailed

electronically to the researcher. The researcher then put this content into a data base and









analyzed it using statistical computer software. While most of the data were analyzed

using descriptive statistics and frequencies, some relationships were tested as post hoc

analyses.

The common gateway interface transmitted the responses to open-ended questions

verbatim as text in the electronic mail sent to the researcher. The researcher coded these

data into categories which were pretested by an independent coder. The pretest, using

one open-ended answer from each survey population, yielded a coefficient of reliability of

88%, using the equations C.R. = 2M/(Ni+N2) where M is the number of coding decisions

made in agreement, N1 is the number of coding decisions made by the researcher and N2

is the number of coding decisions made by the independent coder.3 Although this

method does not account for the level of agreement by chance alone, the researcher

determined this method was the most realistically feasible because of the high number of

responses and categories from the open-ended data.

Following the pretest, the researcher and the independent coder each individually

categorized the 220 open-ended responses, yielding an initial 75% agreement rate.

Following a second detailed review of the open-ended data and the coding sheets by both

the researcher and the independent coder, each made a number of coding changes,

resulting in a final 96% agreement rate. The researcher acknowledges that such a large

increase in agreement may seem atypical. However, each disagreement from the first





3 Holsti, Ole, Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities, (Reading, Mass:
Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1969) 141.









coding procedure was reviewed by the researcher and the independent coder. The

subsequent changes were a result of the following:

The researcher and the independent coder neglected to find some of the
categories during the first coding procedure. With more than 200 answers to
code, ranging from one sentence to more than a page and each with an average
of three themes per answer, this was not surprising.


It became obvious that, for at least two questions, the categories derived by the
researcher were not as mutually exclusive as they could have been resulting
in some coding disagreements during the first coding procedure. When this
was discovered, the researcher clarified the meaning of the categories so that
they became mutually exclusive.


Some answers or categories were difficult for the independent coder to
understand, due to military jargon, resulting in some disagreement during the
first coding session. The researcher explained the meaning of these words so
that the independent coder could understand.


Despite the large increase in agreement, there were some coding decisions that continued

to be disagreed over and each individual held firm to his original decisions. After these

coding discussions occurred, the researcher used his own coding decisions for analysis.

Pertinent quotes also were taken from the open-ended data to be used in the final chapter.


Response Rate


The researcher received 248 responses or 31% of the total number of questionnaires sent

out (790). The public affairs response rate was 38% (130 responses), the commander

response rate was 38% (51 responses), and the judge advocate response rate was 21% (67


responses).









Response rates from electronic surveys are not easy to predict. In addition to limitations

associated with mail surveys, electronic surveys are dependent on recipients' experience

with computers and technology.4 In this case, recipients were expected to have a

familiarity with the Internet. Although most Air Force personnel by now have become

accustomed to conducting business on the web, the researcher likely lost a few

respondents with the extra step of requiring respondents to go from email to a web site.

The response rate also is affected by the length of the survey, the amount of time given to

fill out the survey, the respondents' connection to the survey topic, whether any incentive

was given and whether any follow-up reminders were sent. Decisive Technology

Corporation has received a 15-40 percent response rate for an electronic survey sent with

no incentives and no follow-up reminders and a 20-45 percent response rate for a similar

survey sent with both an incentive and follow-up reminders.5 Their response rate from

an electronic survey most similar to the researcher, with no incentive and one follow-up

reminder, yielded 30%. These comparisons show that the researcher's response rate of

31% is comparable to the rate received by others conducting electronic surveys.

Additionally, Dr. Marshall Rice, a professor of market research at York University,

believes that a response rate of more than 30% is "excellent."6 However with only 32%

of all public affairs officers, 31% of all commanders and 5% of all judge advocates



4 Rudd.

5 Rudd.

6 Rice, Marshall, York University Associate Professor of Marketing, personal email 8
Dec. 1997.






55


having responded, the data cannot necessarily be generalized to any of the three survey

populations. Still, the data gathered were useful in determining what some members of

the survey populations thought about the relationship between public affairs and judge

advocate functions.
















CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS


General Information


Demographics

Of the 130 public affairs officers who responded, approximately half were

company-grade officers-lieutenants and captains-and half were field-grade officers-

majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels and above (See Figure 4-1). Their years of public

affairs experience ranged from six months to 33 years, with a mean of 10 years. Of the

67 judge advocates who responded, more than half were field grade officers and the

remainder were company-grade officers. Their years of legal experience ranged from one

to 30 years, with a mean of 11 years.


Figure 4-1


Public Affairs Officer Rank


1st Lt
k 2%


Judge Advocate Rank









Of the 51 commanders who responded nearly 65% were at the wing level (usually

each Air Force base has one wing commander who is in charge at that installation), 18%

were at the numbered air force level (in charge of many Air Force bases), 16% were at the

major command level (in charge of a few numbered Air Forces) and 2% were at the

unified command level (one of the highest military commands containing all types of

service members Air Force, Army, Navy, etc.). Their years of command experience

ranged from one to 33 years, with a mean of 7 years.

Job Knowledge

The public affairs and judge advocate respondents were asked about their

knowledge of areas involving legal and public affairs issues. Both appeared to be more

familiar with The Privacy Act and The Freedom of Information Act but less familiar with

other issues that are common to both functions (See Table 4-1 and 4-2).


Table 4-1


Public Affairs Officer Knowledge Of... Not At All Somewhat Very
Familiar Familiar Familiar

Civil Litigation 25% 69% 7%

Military Justice System 2% 73% 25%

Criminal Investigations 12% 75% 13%

Censorship 9% 52% 39%

The Privacy Act 48% 52%

The Freedom of Information Act 57% 43%










Table 4-2


Judge Advocate Knowledge Of... Not At All Somewhat Very
Familiar Familiar Familiar

Media Relations 12% 66% 22%

DoD Principles of Information 49% 34% 16%

Censorship 21% 48% 31%

The Privacy Act 2% 48% 51%

The Freedom of Information Act 46% 54%




When asked if their offices had any crisis communication plans that specifically

dealt with legal issues such as high visibility courts martial and investigations, the

majority (69%) of public affairs respondents said they did not (See Figure 4-2).


Figure 4-2


Have PA plans for legal crises?

------- I T l Blank
/ ~A-h"


No
6900









Frequency and Characteristics of Conflict


Public Affairs and Judge Advocate respondents indicated similarly how much

conflict exists between the two functions. However, the commander respondents

believed conflict occurred much less (See Table 4-3). The majority of all three groups

said that there was more conflict during a crisis (See Table 4-4).


Table 4-3


How Much Conflict Exists Between PA and JA?

Respondents Never Rarely Sometimes Usually Always

Public Affairs Officers 4% 33% 47% 15% 1%

Judge Advocates 2% 37% 49% 10% 2%

Commanders 10% 57% 33%

Combined Data 4% 39% 45% 11% 1%


Table 4-4


Is there more conflict during a crisis?

Respondents Yes No The Same N/A

Public Affairs Officers 47% 25% 25% 2%

Judge Advocates 63% 19% 16% 2%

Commanders 39% 35% 22% 4%

Combined Data 50% 26% 22% 2%









All respondents were asked to identify the major characteristics of conflict

between public affairs and legal functions. It appeared that different missions, objectives

and priorities of the two functions; balancing the "right to know" and privacy rights; and

the media environment characterized much of the conflict between the two (See Table 4-

5). Approximately four percent of all respondents thought this question was "not

applicable."


Table 4-5


Major characteristics of conflict between public affairs and legal functions


Respondents Rank Different Media Lack of Balancing Lack of
Disparity missions, Environ Info "right to education
objectives, -ment Sharin know" n and
priorities g and training
privacy
rights

Public 16% 64% 67% 40% 69% 44%
Affairs
Officers

Judge 2% 68% 52% 28% 42% 55%
Advocates

Commanders 2% 57% 49% 28% 67% 26%

Combined 9% 63% 59% 34% 61% 43%
Data


Approximately 25% of the public affairs respondents indicated that "other"

characteristics of conflict existed. These responses were coded into 15 categories (See

Table 4-6).









Table 4-6
"Other" Major Characteristics of Conflict Between PA and JA Number of PA
Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

JA hesitates to release information or doesn't provide timely, accurate, 7
understandable information

Disagreement between PA and JA and between armed services regarding 6
interpretation of regulations, policies and/or The Privacy Act

Media and/or defense attorney actions create environment where AF cannot 5
respond without jeopardizing the legal process or an individual's rights

PA and JA inherently have different objectives, goals, tactics, behaviors 4

PA doesn't understand JA and/or JA doesn't understand PA 4

Disparity of experience, rank, credibility between PA and JA and they are 4
treated differently

JA doesn't care about public opinion during a court case or JA doesn't 3
understand that they can win in court but lose in the court of public opinion
and hurt the Air Force

Commanders think legal issues are more important than PA issues 2

Media environment creates time constraints 2

JA and/or other agencies don't share information with PA 2

Court of law rules are more solid, court of public opinion rules are not 1

Coordination with HQ causes delays 1

JA is intimidated by media issues 1

JA doesn't want to be in front of the camera even though they're the legal 1
experts

Inexperienced PA people don't have ability to mange the information 1
climate









Approximately 22% of the judge advocate respondents indicated that "other"

characteristics of conflict existed. These responses were classified into 11 categories (See

Table 4-7).


Table 4-7
"Other" Major Characteristics of Conflict Between PA and JA Number of JA
Respondents
Who Gave
This Answer

Disagreements over what information is releasable and what 2
information should be withheld

Disparity of experience, rank, and/or credibility between PA and JA 2

PA doesn't understand JA and/or JA doesn't understand PA 2

Judicial concerns/privacy rights/undue influence vs. "the right of the 2
public to know"

Media and/or defense attorney actions create environment where the 1
Air Force cannot respond without jeopardizing the legal process or
an individual's rights

PA's goal is to give everything to the media 1

Other conflict exists in addition to military justice: contract, labor, 1
etc

PA doesn't coordinate with JA regarding legal matters 1

PA wants simple/fast answers 1

The release of information compromises legal work 1

The transitory nature of both PAO's and reporters prevents good 1
long-term relationships









Approximately 17% of the commander respondents indicated that "other"

characteristics of conflict existed. These responses were classified into five categories

(See Table 4-8).


Table 4-8
"Other" Major Characteristics of Conflict Between PA and JA Number of
Commander
Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

Conflict exists when commanders allows it to exist-failure of 2
command

Reluctance to be candid because of political factors 1

PA and JA inherently have different objectives, goals, tactics, 1
behaviors

Fear of lawsuits 1

Tendency to withhold information to protect the accused 1



When the "other" categories from all three groups were combined for this

question, six themes were found to be the most frequently occurring (See Table 4-9).

Additionally, 10 respondents indicated that little or no conflict existed between public

affairs and legal functions.









Table 4-9
"Other" Major Characteristics of Conflict Between PA and JA Number of ALL
Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

JA hesitates to release information or doesn't provide timely, 7
accurate, understandable information

Media and/or defense attorney actions create environment where the 7
AF cannot respond without jeopardizing the legal process or an
individual's rights-tendency to withhold information to protect the
accused

Disagreement between PA and JA and between armed services 6
regarding interpretation of regulations, policies and/or The Privacy
Act

PA doesn't understand JA and/or JA doesn't understand PA 6

Disparity of experience, rank, credibility between PA and JA and 6
they are treated differently

PA and JA inherently have different objectives, goals, tactics, 5
behaviors




How Conflict Is Usually Resolved


Survey respondents were asked how conflict between public affairs and legal

functions is usually resolved. The majority of all the respondents felt that conflicts

between the two were resolved through consensus where both sides were satisfied with

the decision. However, the data also show that, during conflicts, the legal course of

action is taken 25 times more often than the public affairs course of action (See Table 4-

10). Approximately 11% of all the respondents said this question was "not applicable"

and one percent did not answer the question.









Table 4-10


How is conflict between PA and JA usually resolved?


PA course of JA course of Compromise: Consensus:
Respondents action is taken action is taken Both sides are Both sides
(win-lose) (win-lose) unsatisfied are satisfied
(lose-lose) (win-win)


Public Affairs 2% 28% 12% 52%
Officers

Judge 2% 24% 18% 40%
Advocates

Commanders 18% 10% 55%

Combined 1% 25% 13% 49%
Data



Respondents also were asked what the usual results were for the Air Force as a

whole after a conflict between legal and public affairs has been resolved. While 22% of

respondents felt this question was "not applicable" and one percent did not answer the

question, the majority of those who did respond indicated that, following a conflict

between legal and public affairs functions, the Air Force usually achieves its legal goals

but loses public support. Only 31% thought the Air Force achieves its legal goals and

wins public support following a conflict between the two (See Table 4-11).









Table 4-11


Wins public Achieves legal Loses public Wins public
Respondents support but goals but support and support and
does not loses public does not achieves legal
achieve legal support (win- achieve legal goals (win-win)
goals (win- lose) goals (lose-
lose) lose)


Public Affairs 2% 42% 5% 31%
Officers

Judge 27% 19% 25%
Advocates

Commanders 31% 8% 37%

Combined 1% 36% 9% 31%
Data


How To Decrease Conflict or Better Resolve Conflict


All respondents were asked to suggest ways to decrease conflict between public

affairs and legal functions or how to better resolve conflict. They suggested that the best

ways to do so are to have interdisciplinary education/training for public affairs officers

and judge advocates; encourage more joint planning and information sharing; and to

clarify the policies regarding the release of information and privacy rights (See Table 4-

12). Approximately two percent of all respondents thought the question was "not

applicable."









Table 4-12


How To Decrease Conflict or Better Resolve Conflict


Respondents Educatio More Clarify Joint Meetings More Do
n and info policies Planning to adjust consensus what is
Training sharing feelings, building best
attitudes, for the
etc. AF

Public 72% 67% 58% 63% 44% 48% 58%
Affairs
Officers

Judge 66% 57% 51% 72% 40% 39% 40%
Advocates

Commanders 47% 43% 57% 51% 28% 33% 49%

Combined 65% 59% 56% 63% 40% 42% 51%
Data


More than 20% of public affairs respondents indicated that "other" ways to

decrease conflict existed. These responses were coded into 18 categories (See Table 4-

13).


Table 4-13
"Other" Ways to Decrease Conflict Between PA and JA Number of PA
Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

Interdisciplinary education and/or training between PA and JA 7

More communication/respect/understanding between PA and JA 5









Table 4-13--continued

"Other" Ways to Decrease Conflict Between PA and JA Number of PA
Respondents
Who Gave
This Answer

Do what is best for the Air Force" not what is best for PA, JA or individuals 4

Need to get the Air Force side of the story out without damaging legal case 4

Realize the importance of public opinion 3

Educate commanders on PA/JA issues 3

Educate PA's on how to establish good relationship with commanders and to 2
establish themselves despite rank/credibility disparity with JA

Change the Uniform Code of Military Justice 1

Clarification of guidance and regulations regarding release of information, 1
especially during high-visibility cases

Keep military community informed through internal information 1

Be forthcoming with information lay out all the facts 1

Create PA/JA positions) and fill with dual-trained persons) 1

Take the initiative after trials are over to get Air Force side of the story out 1

Do case studies to find out the best ways to handle disciplinary cases 1

Control the message going out to the public 1

JA needs to realize that releasing information is not a case-by-case decision 1

Planning ahead of time 1

Use a 3rd-party PR person when the Air Force's hands are tied and they can't 1
release information









Nine percent of judge advocate respondents indicated that "other" ways to

decrease conflict existed. These responses were classified into seven categories (See

Table 4-14). Additionally, one respondent said that the questionnaire options for this

question were "touchy-feely but not particularly helpful."

Table 4-14

"Other" Ways to Decrease Conflict Between PA and JA Number of
JA
Respondents
Who Gave
This Answer

Planning before a crisis occurs 1

Higher rank for PAO's 1

Explain military laws and information release policies to the media/public 1

Better coordination between JA and PA 1

PA shouldn't be the only ones to decide what is "in the best interests of the Air 1
Force"

Better understanding of what the commander wants to do 1

Information should not be released if it will jeopardize legal proceedings 1



Approximately 25% of the commander respondents indicated that "other" ways to

decrease conflict existed. These responses were classified into seven categories (See

Table 4-15). When the "other" categories from all three groups were combined for this

question, six themes were found to be the most frequently occurring (See Table 4-16).

Additionally, six respondents said that little or no conflict exists between public affairs

and legal functions.









Table 4-15
"Other" Ways to Decrease Conflict Between PA and JA Number of Commander
Respondents Who Gave
This Answer

Commanders are the ones responsible for JA and PA decisions and 6
for ensuring a good relationship between the two and they need to
be educated on JA/PA issues

More meetings, communications, understanding between PA and 2
JA

PA and/or JA need to share information more 1

Civilian appointees need military perspective 1

JA needs to stop withholding information 1

PA needs to stop speculating and admit wrongdoing if it's true 1

Do case studies to find out the best way to handle legal cases 1






Table 4-16
"Other" Ways to Decrease Conflict Between PA and JA Number of ALL
Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

Commanders are the ones responsible for JA and PA decisions and for 9
ensuring a good relationship between the two and/or commanders need to
be educated on JA/PA issues

More meetings, communication, coordination, respect/understanding 8
between PA and JA

Interdisciplinary education and/or training between PA and JA 7

Do what is in the "best interest of the Air Force" not what is best for PA, JA 4
or individuals









Table 4-16--continued
"Other" Ways to Decrease Conflict Between PA and JA Number of ALL
Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

Need to get the AF side of the story out without damaging legal proceedings 4

Realize the importance of public opinion 3



Finally, respondents were asked if they had any other thoughts about how to

improve the relationship between public affairs and legal functions. Half of the public

affairs respondents gave input to this question. The answers then were coded into 19

categories (See Table 4-17).


Table 4-17
"Other" Thoughts on How to Improve the Relationship between Number of PA
PA and JA Respondents Who
Gave This Answer

Planning, meetings, communication and understanding/respect are 16
key

JA and PA need interdisciplinary education/training and/or need to 15
exercise together

Both PA and JA need to be open minded and willing to compromise, 11
work as a team toward consensus and what is best for the Air Force

The need to protect the legal system and people's individual rights 11
during a legal case hurts the Air Force in the court of public opinion.
Need to be able to respond to media queries before/during a trial.
The AF needs to review/clarifylaws/regulations/policies/instructions/
rules on releasing information, especially new media/legal
environments. The Air Force should come up with some guidance on
how to handle high-visibility legal cases.









Table 4-17--continued
"Other" Thoughts on How to Improve the Relationship Number of PA
between PA and JA Respondents
Who Gave
This Answer

The relationship between PA and JA is determined by the commander-need 10
to educate him/her and other regarding JA and/or PA functions)

JA thinks legal is the most important and/or JA needs to be willing to listen to 6
PA advice when deciding legal stuff and need to be available to PA and
provide them timely information

There is a disparity in rank/pay/credibility between PA and JA 5

Should do some case studies of how legal cases have been handled and/or 5
study how civilian PR companies compare to PA in how the handle
legal/disciplinary cases

Commanders need to respect PA as much as JA

Include others besides JA in public affairs training-defense counsel, office of 2
special investigations, etc. and include PA training at professional military
education courses

HQ is too involved in base-level release of information 1

The threat of litigation will always cause conflict 1

PA and JA should be located in the same building together 1

JA is concrete and based on the law; PA is fuzzy and based on public opinion 1

Need 3rd-party arbitrator because PA and JA are always opposed 1

Other organizations have conflict with PA also: operations, command, etc. 1

There are already steps being taken in JA community to become educated on 1
PA issues

PA's need to be willing to withhold information when appropriate 1

AF interpretation of The Privacy Act/other information regulations differ 1
from other services









More than 45% of the judge advocate respondents gave input to this question.

The answers were classified into 20 categories (See Table 4-18). Additionally, one

respondent said that the questionnaire was not good and another said that the survey

"mischaracterized the attorney-client relationship."

Table 4-18

"Other" Thoughts on How to Improve the Relationship Number of JA
between PA and JA Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

JA and/or PA don't understand the other's functions-need to be educated or 9
trained in the other functions so they can see the bigger picture

More meetings, communication and understanding/respect are needed 7
between PA and JA

AF regulations on releasing information are too strict and we need to be able 5
to get facts of a case out to the public before/during a trial, especially if the
defendant has already gone public or if the case will draw media attention

Need to balance fair trial and privacy rights with the "right of the people to 4
know"

The spokesperson in a situation should be whoever is the expert, not 3
necessarily the PA, and this person should be properly trained and prepared

Need clarification of policies/regulations/instructions on releasing 3
information

Hire PR experts or train PA to do PR so they can influence the media/public 3

Need to have plans to deal with legal cases 3

PA often is suspected of identifying with the media due to PA desire to "tell 3
all"-and in doing so, they are doing more harm to the Air Force than good

Every situation is unique-no hard/fast rules to resolve or eliminate PA/JA 2
conflict









Table 4-18--continued
"Other" Thoughts on How to Improve the Relationship Number of JA
between PA and JA Respondents
Who Gave
This Answer

JA needs to respond faster to requests for information 2

Need to consider PA implications of legal decision 2

Other issues besides criminal cases create conflict between JA and PA 1

PAO's think they're lawyers 1

Sometimes getting information out is more important than the court martial 1

Need faster HQ coordination 1

Need more quality people in JA and/or PA 1

Junior or mid-level enlisted people should not be spokespersons 1

Problems between PA and JA exist in the other services too 1

PA needs to do its own Freedom of Information work instead of having JA 1
do it



More than half of the commander respondents gave input to this question. The

answers were classified into 13 categories (See Table 4-19). One commander said that

the survey questions were "leading" and another said that question options were not

realistic. When the "other" categories from all three groups were combined for this

question, six themes were found to be the most frequently occurring (See Table 4-20).

Additionally, 21 respondents said that little or no conflict exists between public affairs

and legal functions.









Table 4-19
"Other" Thoughts on How to Improve the Relationship Number of
between PA and JA Commander
Respondents Who
Gave This
Answer

There should be more involvement in the relationship between JA and PA 7

There is a lack of information sharing/communication between PA and JA. 5
They should meet more to plan ahead, talk more-especially about specific
cases, and understand each other's perspective and responsibilities

Need PA and JA to work as a team in determining what is in the best 4
interest of the Air Force

JA and PA need to have interdisciplinary education/training to learn about 4
each other

JA thinks only of legal issues-they need to have an understanding of the 2
bigger picture

The relationship between JA and PA is situational-depends on each 2
issue/legal case

There needs to be a balance between legal concerns and the "right of public 2
to know." The Air Force must be able to balance media coverage
before/during a trial

PA needs to quit speculating and/or needs to listen to JA more 2

PA and JA inherently have different goals/objectives 2

JA is more experienced and has a well-defined job that is accountable to 1
the law, hence a conservative approach. PA does not have a well-defined
job and is accountable to public opinion which is static

The military justice system is fair and not usually subject to political 1
pressures

PA should be involved in any legal case which could draw media attention 1


JA needs to let information be released









Table 4-20

"Other" Thoughts on How to Improve the Relationship Number of ALL
between PA and JA Respondents
Who Gave This
Answer

Planning, meetings, communication and understanding/respect are key to a 31
good relationship and/or there is a lack of information sharing going on
and/or

JA and PA need interdisciplinary education/training and/or need to exercise 28
together

The need to protect the legal system and people's individual rights during a 25
legal case hurts the AF in the court of public opinion. Need to be able to
respond to media queries before/during a trial. The Air Force needs to
review/clarify laws/regulations/policies/instructions/ rules on releasing
information, especially new media/legal environments. The Air Force
should some up with some guidance on how to handle high-visibility legal
cases. Need to balance the "right to know" with the right to fair legal
proceedings and individual's rights

The relationship between PA and JA is determined by the commander 17
need to educate him/her and other regarding JA and/or PA functionss.
There needs to be more commander involvement in the relationship.

Both PA and JA need to be open minded and willing to compromise, work 15
as a team toward consensus and what is best for the AF

JA thinks legal is the most important and/or JA needs to be willing to listen 13
to PA advice when deciding legal stuff and need to be available to PA and
provide them timely information




Post Hoc Analysis


The researcher examined the relationships between the amount of conflict and

rank, years of public affairs, legal or command experience, job knowledge and whether or

not an office had public affairs plans for dealing with legal issues. Only three









relationships appeared to be statistically significant. However, given these small sample

sizes and relatively low response rates, the data cannot be rigorously inferred to the

populations.

The first statistically significant relationship found was between the familiarity of

public affairs officers with criminal investigations and the frequency of conflict between

public affairs and legal functions (chi-square = 15.9, p = .043) the more familiar public

affairs officers were with this topic, the more frequent the conflict. Two other significant

relationships uncovered were between the familiarity of judge advocates with censorship

and media relations and the frequency of conflict (censorship chi-square = 16.2, p = .038;

media relations chi square = 16.6, p = .035) the more familiar judge advocates were

with these topics, the more frequent the conflict.















CHAPTER 5
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS


Discussion


The findings support previous literature which indicates that, although public

relations practitioners and lawyers do work well together, conflict between the two does

exist which can have a negative impact on an organization as a whole. Some of this

conflict, as theorists have stated for years, is inherent in any relationship and can have

both productive and negative consequences.

Overall, the researcher was satisfied with the response rates from both the public

affairs officers and commanders-38% each. This shows these two groups perhaps

identified with the research topic and had opinions and concerns they wanted to share. In

particular, the researcher was surprised that so many commanders participated in the

survey because he suspected that this group, due to the tremendous time constraints on

chief executive officers, would have the lowest response rate. Quite the contrary

occurred. Not only did a large number of commanders respond, but many indicated that

the relationship between public affairs and legal functions was the responsibility of the

commander and that he/she needed to be educated on PA/JA issues and actively involved

in the relationship.

However, the researcher was disappointed in the low response rate (21%) from the

legal community. This could have occurred for several reasons. First, the judge









advocates may not have identified as much with the research topic. Second, these data

and the literature suggest that lawyers often have the upper hand when dealing with

public affairs issues, due to a credibility or power gap between the two functions.

Although the researcher received valuable information from many lawyers, some

attorneys may not have not been willing to discuss an issue which might result in their

losing the control they already have over the relationship. Third, because the survey was

not endorsed by the senior Air Force judge advocate, there may have been less incentive

among Air Force attorneys to participate.

Frequency and Characteristics of Conflict

Both lawyer and public affairs groups were very similar in the amount of conflict

perceived, which corresponds almost exactly to the data Fitzpatrick gathered in a survey

of public relations practitioners. In her study, more than 40% of respondents said the

relationship was "excellent," and in this study approximately 40% of respondents said

that conflict "rarely" or "never" existed. Similarly, in the Fitzpatrick study approximately

15% of respondents said the relationship was "fair" or "poor," and in this study 16% of

public affairs officers and 12% of lawyers said that conflict "usually" or "always" existed.

Interestingly, commanders saw the least amount of conflict in the relationship. This

could be because many conflicts may be resolved between public affairs and legal

functions without commander involvement. However during crises, which necessarily

involve more commander involvement, the majority of all three samples indicated that

conflict increases.

And just as many of Fitzpatrick's respondents indicated they had a lack of

knowledge regarding some legal topics, there appears to be a knowledge gap with Air









Force public affairs officers also. Although they indicated that they are well-versed in

Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act issues, 75% said they were "not at all" or

only "somewhat" familiar with the military justice system and 87% said the same about

their familiarity with criminal investigations, two areas that increasingly have public

affairs implications. The same was true for the judge advocate respondents. Although

they appeared to have a good working knowledge of Privacy Act and Freedom of

Information Act issues, 78% said they were "not at all" or only "somewhat" familiar with

media relations and 83% said the same about the DoD Principles of Information which

provide the foundation for the military's information release policies. But although

knowledge of the other's function is important to both communicators and lawyers, these

data indicate that an increase in knowledge will not translate necessarily to a decrease in

conflict. In fact, this analysis shows that, depending on the topic, more knowledge could

increase the amount of conflict. The researcher is unsure why this occurred. It could be

that, as one becomes more familiar with a given topic and more confident in one's own

knowledge, he or she is less willing to compromise.

The combined data from all three samples reflected similar characteristics of

conflict between public affairs and legal functions. There was a recognition that some

conflict is inevitable due to competing objectives, goals, etc. However, the release of

information seemed to be a major source of conflict. More than 60% said that the

balance between the "right of the public to know" and privacy rights or the right to fair

legal proceedings contributed to conflict and nearly as many said that the current media

environment did also. These two characteristics go hand in hand and feed off each other

as many recent high-visibility court cases have shown. Making the situation worse may









be a lack of education, training or information sharing between the two fields. Many

respondents admitted they did not know as much about the other function as they should.

And although the public affairs respondents were the ones who more frequently

acknowledged a disparity in rank, credibility, pay and treatment between themselves and

lawyers, some Air Force attorneys and commanders mentioned these discrepancies as

well.

How is Conflict Usually Resolved?

The public affairs respondents saw more consensus (win-win) results from

conflicts with the legal community than did the lawyers, although both agreed that

approximately 43% of the time there is a win-lose or a lose-lose resolution to a conflict,

where either the public affairs or the legal counsel is taken or a compromise is made

where both sides are unsatisfied with the decision. Combining the data from all three

samples, one sees that about half of the time conflict is resolved through a win-win

solution. The fact that the two experience lose-lose or win-lose results nearly 40% of the

time shows that there is room for improvement in how conflicts are resolved. But what is

even more significant is that the respondents felt that legal counsel is heeded more than

the public affairs counsel by a factor of 25 to 1.

That being said, the researcher believes it is not important whether public affairs

or legal wins or loses in any given situation, unless the result is a loss for the Air Force.

But, these data indicate that the Air Force may only experience a win-win result-win

public support and achieve its legal goals-30% of the time following a conflict between

public affairs and legal functions. Thirty-six percent of the time the Air Force achieves

its legal goals but does not win public support (win-lose), less than one percent of the









time the service wins public support but does not achieve its legal goals (win-lose), and

nine percent of the time loses public support and does not achieve its legal goals (lose-

lose). When one looks at the previous data on how conflicts between the two functions

are resolved, there is a similar disparity in the percentage of times the legal counsel is

taken over the public affairs counsel or when a compromise is made between the two

where both are still unsatisfied with the decision. So it appears that it does matter that

public affairs is losing while legal is winning because the Air Force as a whole is losing at

times when it could be winning.

More than 20% of all the respondents indicated that the question regarding the

usual results for the Air Force after a conflict between public affairs and legal functions

has been resolved was "not applicable." This could be for several reasons. Those who

felt there was rarely or never any conflict between the two may not have felt the question

applied to their situation. And, some may have not agreed with the "win-lose"

terminology used by the researcher, as a few wrote in their survey responses.

Recommendations

The findings do indicate there is a need for improvement in the relationship

between Air Force legal and public affairs functions. There is no way to remove all

conflict, nor is there a desire to since some conflict is healthy in any relationship. As

Gen. William Moorman, a senior Air Force lawyer wrote in his survey response:

There is in our Constitution an inherent tension between competing rights: my
freedom to say whatever comes to mind, and your freedom not to be panicked
when I yell 'fire' in a crowded theater when there is no fire, the public's right to
know what goes on within its government and the government's right to have its
internal decision-making process operate free from outside interference, one
person's right to put anything they want on the Internet and another's right not to
have their children exposed to graphic sexual material. This inherent tension is




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Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs