THE BIG PITCH: What would you teach in your graduate level PR classfor the Defense Department?

MICHAEL HOLTZMAN, SVP, Weber Shandwick Worldwide

First, I would teach that the Defense Department needs to maintain -

more than ever - a high level of public support, for recruitment

purposes as well as to justify its huge federal budgetary expenditure in

a world with no superpower rivalry. This requires communicating the US

Armed Services' critical role in a world with more diffuse, but no less

dangerous threats.

Secondly, my class would survey America's long-held ambivalence about

the Armed Services and America's role in the world. Defense Department

PR must be aware that Americans are deeply divided over the role of the

US military and international engagement. To address this skepticism, I

would teach the fundamentals of grassroots media relations.

Strategically, we would focus on general consumer media, 17- to

30-year-olds and minorities.

Finally, it is critical to teach strategies for reaching policy-makers,

security allies and, of course, enemies via PR.

BILL HARRIS, Partner, Strategy Associates

I would focus first and foremost on crisis management. Whether it's a

public response to its big budget and overspending for commonplace items

or a reaction to a particular military action, the Department of Defense

must always be prepared to address any unexpected events. This means

knowing what could go wrong and creating contingency plans. It should

work within the departments to identify what has happened already, how

it was handled, what could have been improved, and what resources are

available. Also, it would help the Department of Defense to line up

several reputable outside sources (scientists, architects, weapons

experts, policy experts, etc.) to address the press on the situation at

hand, thereby offering third party credibility.

ROBERT HOPE, President, Hope-Beckham

As a product, the US military is not much different than Coca-Cola or

any other product with immense tradition and heritage. The primary role

of its PR people is to maintain a clear focus on what it is, why it

exists and its heritage of success. Taxpayers need to know what it is

doing to build on its heritage, in addition to learning about its new

programs, best performers and top equipment. They want to know it is

prepared to do what they are paying it to do, and that it is adhering

and honoring its tradition. The recent A&E special on The Heroes of Iwo

Jima reinforced my appreciation of what it takes to defend our nation as

well as how intense a battle can be with a nation that people of my

generation have only seen as friendly. The same goes for a movie like

Pearl Harbor. Whatever can be done by the military to assist or

encourage the telling of its stories and its heroes keeps the need for

the military alive and fresh in the minds of people who can easily view

war as an impossible thought.

RON SACHS, President, Ron Sachs Communications

A key drill for any advanced military course in PR would first include

explicit instructions to "forget your military ABCs." In other words,

lose the acronyms, buzzwords and catch-phrases. Speak English, not

militarese. Remember, things that make perfect sense to a private often

don't resonate with the public. It's also vital to absolutely avoid

being dishonest or deceptive. Any lie - even a small one - can

jeopardize your credibility and that of your command. If a sensitive

situation prevents you from answering a question, simply say so. But

remember that since everything the military does is a matter of national

security, that rationale should not be a catch-all excuse for denying

information to the news media and the public.

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