Gift Giving for the Public Affairs Professional

It’s hard to believe that the end of another year is upon us. Barely does the rhythm of the daily grind slow enough that we have time to reflect. At the same time, during this season of giving, we’re faced with the added challenge of finding the right gift for those we love and care about. It’s enough to make one put another spike in the eggnog.

For some of us, our reflections are on the joys of the year, both personal and professional. In some cases, it may be more melancholy in nature. For the Soldiers and civilians who make up the Army public affairs profession, it is often our job to reflect not just on our lives, but also on the achievements of our units and organizations. Telling the Army story is not just our jobs, it is our privilege. We have the opportunity to frame the conversation about our profession for the American people, and when we do it well, we can impact the future of the force in ways that are often difficult to measure, but impossible to miss.

That responsibility of telling the Army story is more challenging today than I’ve ever seen it before. Pew research released a report in May that discussed the latest data in a long-running study of public trust in government. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that over the past five decades public trust in government has been steadily declining, while public anger and frustration about the government has been steadily increasing.

How do we overcome distrust in our audiences in an era where the traditional media we have learned to navigate is being overcome by social media echo chambers? How do we break audiences of the steady diet of customized news that feeds their individual confirmation biases? How do we tell the Army story to a population that labels anything countering their world view as “fake news” or propaganda?

The truth is that I don’t know that the single best answer has been discovered to respond to those questions. We have several pieces of the answer; increased audience engagement via social media, focus on content creation, strategic outreach to influencers and thought leaders in our target audiences, a willingness to experiment with new channels and tactics, and our own individual and collective integrity to be honest, and forthright, even in the face of bad news.

The strength of the Army Public Affairs profession is that we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to innovative thinkers. The strategies and tactics our Soldiers and civilians are deploying, and the emphasis on measuring outcomes and applying lessons learned, are moving us as a career field toward incredible success.

As you reflect on your past year, I would encourage you consider sharing the professional successes with your peers in the Army Public Affairs Association. We have a website with a blog where you can share your lessons learned from the hard fought information battles of the past 12 months. Or start a conversation on the Association Facebook page and share with your fellow professionals what you found this year that worked (or didn’t).

Consider it your gift to the Army and the profession. The best gift you can give – your knowledge and experience. And come to our website and Facebook page to open your gift from your peers, as they share their knowledge.

I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season and may you be strengthened by every good endeavor.

Doug Coffey, President, Army Public Affairs Association