Public Affairs Case Study: Balancing Freedom of Information against Operational Security


In this public affairs case study, Eric Schwartzman asks United States Marine Corps Major Danny Chung about balancing the American people’s right to know against operational security during combat.  Schwartzman & Associates is a public affairs firm of record for the United States Marine Corps.

Public Affairs Case Study

00:56 — Why Danny Chung decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.  

02:07 – What about the Marine Corps versus the Army, Navy, and Air Force attracted him?  

04:00 – How he wound up in media relations, which was certainly not his intention when he initially joined.  

04:48 – Major Chung discusses his experience managing media relations in Iraq before and after former president George W. Bush commanded the US Armed Forces to invade Iraq on March 19, 2003.  

06:05 – Major Chung talks about his experience getting the USMC story out to professional journalists in today’s highly polarized news media environment.  

07:41 – Major Chung’s opinion of Fox News.  

09:22 – Using access to newsmakers and other military public affairs officers as a way to influence the media coverage that gets generated.  

11:44 – The mandate of United States Marine Corps public affairs.  

12:41 – Pulling Geraldo Rivera out of the desert during Operation Iraqi Freedom for compromising operational security and the more challenging aspects of balancing the American public’s right to know against operational and national security now and in the distant future.  

14:41 – The single biggest lesson that all Marine officers learn.  

16:06 –How a conservative, command and control style organization like the US Marines Corps manages social media engagement.  

18:34 — Casey Peterson asks if social media has replaced the letter home and if the Marines monitor that information for operational security.  

20:06 – The role of a public affairs officer and leadership in monitoring social media conversations, the pervasiveness of social media in the lives of service members today, and the Abu Ghraib prison photo scandal at GITMO as a crisis management case study for when things go wrong.  

22:18 – Getting the good and the bad news out as quickly as possible.  

23:12 – The prospect of living up to the motto “every Marine a spokesperson” by making laptops and handhelds standard issue.  

24:14 – How the USMC public affairs staff mitigates risk by briefing their fellow Marines on dealing with the press.  

25:39 – How to convince a commanding officer who may be older and less engaged that things like search engine optimization consulting and social media matter when they don’t even know what these channels are.   

31:02 – Should the US Marine Corps acknowledge Matthew Ho’s resignation online?  

33:03 – Fighting to preserve the right of people to protest and express their opinions freely.  

34:02 – Erik Deutsch asks about the US Military’s social media strategy in the Middle East, to which Major Chung responds that print and radio are more of a factor in those theaters.  

36:16 – Using social media for information operations and using mobile phones to Tweet during the Islamic Republic of Iran’s recent electoral protests.  

38:56 – Major Chung responds to a passage from a feature story in Wired Magazine about how Secretary of Defense Robert Gates focuses on winning the war today and his decision to ramp up production of armed transports deployed in Iraq.  

41:28 – Major Chung talks about driving around Bagdad in a soft-skinned Humvee.  

44:05 – Major Chung shares his personal perspective on the effectiveness of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates versus former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  

46:41 – End

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