Public Affairs Strategy of Embedding Journalists in the Iraq War

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This is an exclusive interview with 27-year retired United States Navy Rear Admiral TL McCreary, the former spokesperson for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former public officer in service to Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, Gen. Dick Myers and the former Counter-terrorism Counsel and president of Military.com about public affairs strategy during the Iraq War.

You won't hear this anywhere else,

It's an in depth conversation about the inner workings of crisis communications during the US incursion into Iraq, embedding journalists with military units, the biggest crisis communications mistake the US Military made during the Iraqi incursion and how former US Armed Forces service members can apply their public affairs skills to the private sector workplace.  

01:43 — How McCreary became an Admiral in the United States Navy and his experience as a public affairs officer in the United States Military.

02:26 — Why informing military commanders what's going on in the public sector it's not just an issue of truth, but an issue of trust and an issue of transparency and why lawyers and public affairs officers are the two most important counselor's to today's senior leadership.

03:32 — The importance of providing an accurate explanation of war time activities to the public.

04:01 — A recount of 9/11, exactly what happened when the hijacked plane hit the Pentagon and what went through his mind on that day. 05:04 — Working in the National Command Center in the Pentagon with Vice Chairman Gen. Myers, SecDef Rumsfeld and his spokesman Victoria Clarke after the plane hit the Pentagon.

06:02 — The importance of good military training in preparing a public affairs officer how to communicate effectively during a crisis. 06:38 — Letting the American people know that the US Military is still functioning and operating during a time of crisis.

07:02 — SecDef Rumsfeld's presentation to the press from the podium in the Pentagon.

07:43 — The main difference between handling crisis communications during 9/11 versus other national emergencies was one of scope, which directly involved the United States Vice President, the US Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all discussing matters such as what to do if there were a second attack and whether or not to shoot down a plane with civilians aboard.

08:39 — The use of a separate, off-site press center to accommodate media during a major crisis, and providing status updates to the public through Craig Quigley, Victoria Clarke's spokesperson at the Department of Defense, who ran the press center during 9/11.

09:36 — The differences between 9/11 crisis communications and media relations during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

10:06 — Handling public affairs during the initial incursion into Iraq under a veil of secrecy. Devising the press plan, which was designed to embark pools of media without revealing our battle plans. And the use of embargoed information to communicate the scope of the incursion and the facts on the ground through the national and some international news media to the American people.

11:24 — Dispatching journalists to aircraft carriers and other military staging areas to allow them to cover the Iraqi incursion, code named operation Iraqi Freedom, during its occurrence.

12:30 — What it takes to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the United States Department of Defense.

14:27 — the use of independent journalists in the first Iraqi incursion and router out of all my queries roll in drafting. The rationale for embedding journalists as a strategy for countering Saddam Hussein's propaganda campaign through transparency.

16:19 — How Gen. Myers's experience in Vietnam impacted his communications strategy during the Iraqi incursion and the importance of distinguishing military policy from political policy so people understand that the US Armed Forces are not responsible for the decision to go to war, which is made by elected US civilian leadership.

18:17 — Dealing with security breaches from reporters like Geraldo Rivera's sand drawings that leaked US Military positions during the Iraqi campaign.

19:14 — The single biggest mistake that the US Armed Forces made in from a communications standpoint during the incursion into Iraq.

20:03 — How and why the US Armed Forces lost the ability to tell their story after the embedded journalists program dissolved and journalists shifted their focus to other matters after the initial Military incursion was complete.

21: 23 — Rear Adm. TL McCreary's top tips to United States Armed Forces service members who are approaching their discharge and transition to the civilian workplace. NOTE: Service Members are encourage to download a free copy of the Digital Readiness Report, which lists the key communications skills sought by corporate hiring managers in today's job market.

22:57 — Why the US military public affairs community is better at crisis communications than most others 22:42 — Why the US military public affairs community understands mainstream and trade media relations.

24:53 — The one area military public affairs officers are least knowledgeable in is Sarbanes-Oxley law and other regulations governing the communications of public companies, but they are generally quick studies.

26:19 — Whether or not members of United States Armed Forces are a better fit for transitioning to large organizations or small businesses.

27:19 — Why former public affairs officers in the US Armed Forces are very self-sufficient and able to manage activities autonomously. 

Photo by Specna Arms on Unsplash

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