The previous post got me thinking...how many people, both in the military and out, actually know what public affairs is...what I actually do? Well it involves all of the following: journalism, photography, marketing, media relations, PR work and community relations.
Public Affairs can be, and actually is, broken into three parts: internal information, media and community relations (COMREL).
Internal Information: The base newspaper falls into this category. Essentially, we write articles, shoot photos for articles or for stand-alone pieces, and then publish them in the base newspaper - be it paper or electronic (ours at Keesler is an actual newspaper). Unfortunately, we are somewhat constricted by what we can and cannot write (this is the military, after all) - you won't find any Vanity Fair-like features or New York Times-esque commentaries. It's pretty much straight news reporting. Some examples of my articles can be found here, here and here (page 4). I don't actually work in the internal information section of my office, so I don't get to write as many stories as I'd like.
Media: This is where the marketing, media relations and public relations comes into it. Whenever something is going on at Keesler (read: always!), we send out press releases to the local press (within 2-hour radius) "selling" the story to them to see if they might want to cover it. Needless to say we get a lot of good press from some of the great things the base does.
Also, media come onto base quite often. When they do, a member of the public affairs office has to escort them and be with them at all times. Usually WLOX-TV (the local ABC affiliate) comes onto base to film an event or interview. In fact, I had to escort reporter Krystal Allan onto base today (I'm on-call this weekend) for a piece WLOX were doing on the Rust College choir's visit to Keesler (the choir, BTW, were AWESOME!! I'm an atheist, but can honestly say I had an absolute blast at the gospel service today!). On Thursday, we escorted NBC Nightly News reporter Maria Menounos onto base for a story she was doing on returning veterans suffering from PTSD and no, she wasn't entirely unpleasant-looking (she was actually very nice as well)!
Also, NPR, the Sun Herald, WWL (the local Fox affiliate) and even Good Morning America (in Dec.) come to Keesler for various stories. Again, though, I'd do more media if it were my main job in PA, but it's not. My primary area of concern is...
Community Relations: In COMREL, I am the liaison between the base and the surrounding community. Again, marketing comes into it. I have to get the base involved in the local community and get the local community involved in the base. I have to sell the base (not that it needs much selling here, being, as it is, the largest employer on the Gulf Coast). Whenever our wing leadership goes off-base for an event, engagement, etc., I'm usually there with them. I plan, organize and execute base involvement with the local community. I also have to attend many of the local Chambers of Commerce (and there are about five of them!) monthly meetings and events.
It's quite a hectic job and I'm usually very busy (especially when I bring groups of civilians on base for a usually-all-day base tour).
Overall, I love this job. Despite the ton of work and the fact that I often have to attend engagements/deal with media during non-duty hours, I'm so glad I cross-trained into this career field (from IT). I still like IT, but this is much more my bag. Hopefully, when I get out of the Air Force and move back to England early next year, I'll be able to do some PR/Media relations for a high-profile IT company (like Microsoft, Cam) where I can get the best of both worlds.
I also hope to continue the journalism side of the job after I get out. My dream would be to be on TV with my own opinion/review show...in other words, the televisual equivalent of this blog!