Public affairs/multimedia merger in full-swing: Career fields "connected at hip"

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lauren Johnson
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
On June 12, 2006 the Air Force chief of staff directed the merger of public affairs and multimedia as a result of Air Force downsizing and as an attempt to combine like career fields.

Over the last nine months, the directive seeped its way onto Hurlburt Field. Now, it's in full-swing.

Currently, public affairs and multimedia have similar missions but different priorities, due to separated administration and operational control, said Capt. Joseph Coslett, 1st Special Operations Wing public affairs chief.

The new look of public affairs will be what Captain Coslett calls "Public Affairs Action Teams."

"We're taking the old stovepipes of video, photography, graphics and public affairs, and we're merging those into Public Affairs Action Teams of one PA photojournalist, and one PA broadcaster," he said.

As of April 6, public affairs will enter a new support level to transition to the PAAT concept. The merger started March 16 with multimedia falling under the 1st SOW commander and with the Hurlburt Field Multimedia Center renamed the Public Information Center.

Following Program Budget Decisions 720 cuts, under which public affairs manning has decreased by one-third, public affairs personnel will not be available to accomplish some of the traditional support customers have become accustomed to, Captain Coslett said.

As part of the initiative, the graphics career field is being eliminated. Master Sgt. Andrea Porter, superintendent of the Public Information Center, said the elimination of graphics and other services previously offered is one of the biggest challenges.

"It's hard to give it up," she said, "but PA and multimedia are willing to work together to make the transition smoother."

Sergeant Porter said she thinks the PAAT are a good concept because they will allow public affairs, photojournalists and broadcasters to work "connected at the hip" and learn directly from each other.

The teams will go to different groups on base, listen to communication concerns, and promote solutions and products to support those solutions.

"We're taking proactive measures to exploit communicative, educational and motivational operations," Captain Coslett said.

The captain said there are three priorities:
· Priority 1 - emergency response including real-world event, aircraft accident and legal Documentation
· Priority 2 - warfighting capabilities including flying operations, intelligence, force protection, wing readiness and news media
· Priority 3 - core tasks to include training, recruiting and historical documentation.

Public affairs will typically focus on mission-related projects, but Captain Coslett said PA will institute measures to mitigate the change.

For graphics-related tasks, public affairs will assist with pre-made templates. PA will also maintain a robust imagery library.

"We will have a self-help kiosk at the Public Information Center where customers can sit down and browse, copy and paste," Captain Coslett said.

Public affairs will assume an advisory role, and the customers will still have the capability of producing official graphical products.

The merger is a balance of customer needs compared with Air Force best practices.

"We want to implement change so people will see results quickly, but we also want to do it correctly," Captain Coslett said.

The captain also stressed the merger is a "living, breathing transformation."

"We will continue to take feedback from customers," he said. "We're always looking for better, smarter ways to do things."

According to Captain Coslett, the merger is based on research of seven other bases that have completed or are in the process of merging.

"We're taking the lessons learned and applying them here," he said.

Sergeant Porter noted that Hurlburt is ahead of the power curve and said she hopes other bases can learn from our merging experience as well.

A successful merger also necessitates additional training, Captain Coslett said. Public affairs personnel must learn advanced photography skills, and photographers and broadcasters must learn journalism.

Sergeant Porter agreed that training presents challenges, but it also has advantages.

"The photographers have been writing captions, now they'll get a chance to turn those captions into a full story with proper training and experience," she said.

And despite the challenges, Sergeant Porter said morale and expectations are high.

"We all want to make it work," she said.

"We're all one team, one fight to get out one message," Captain Coslett agreed.

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