A Public Affairs chief’s views of her profession — Public Relations in the Air Force

Earlier this fall, my Introduction to Public Relations students interviewed strategic communication professionals. Casey Kelly has given permission to reprint his — including actual notes before they were turned into a narrative  This young professional shared her public affairs duties with Casey. Now, he and I share Lieutenant, Alexis D. McGee sage advice with you:

[To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]

Casey Kelly

Professor Litwin

Interview Paper

Public Relations in the Air Force

For my sit down interview, I spoke with 2nd Lieutenant, Alexis D. McGee of the United States Air Force. Lieutenant McGee is Chief of Community Relations, and Public Affairs at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. I was able to contact Lieutenant McGee for my interview because my father is Gary Kelly and the Deputy Operations Officer at the Joint Base. I asked my father if I could speak with someone from Public Relations and he gave me Lieutenant McGee’s contact information. For me personally, it was more than just an interview process for the Public Relations class.

As a senior at Rowan University, I am going to receive my Radio, TV, and Film bachelor’s degree in December. Just like many students graduating college, I want to make the correct career choice to be successful now and in the future. So during the interview, I asked her questions about her career, the benefits of joining the Air Force, and why it would be good for me to join the Air Force after college. With Lieutenant McGee being twenty-three years old, I could relate to her very well compared to an older person not understanding what it is like finding a job as a young person in 2012.

Lieutenant McGee is from a small town in Iowa and graduated college with her bachelors in Illinois. As a sophomore in college, she joined the ROTC program. She told me she joined the program not to be selfish. She wanted to be a part of something and she couldn’t think of anything better then being a part of serving her country. During the ROTC program, she found out she wanted to join the Air Force. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, she went to officer training school.

Now as Chief of Media Relations and Public Affairs, she wears a lot of hats. For Chief of Media Relations, she is in charge of community tours, events, orientations, and guest speaker requests.

For public relations, she answers all media phone calls, in charge of supervising Facebook, Twitter, the newspaper, and writes press releases. Recently, “The Today Show,” came to the Joint-Base to highlight an airmen becoming a United States Citizen.  She answered the phone call, managed where, when, and how the producer, audio technician, and camera operator would get onto the base. With the military, civilians cannot just drive onto the base. A civilian is someone who isn’t in the service, or doesn’t have someone in there family in the service. This makes Lieutenant McGee’s job much more difficult compared to civilian work with Public Relations. A person can get onto the base by either having an identification card (I.D. card) or in special circumstances having a major back round check by the security police on base. After getting to know Lieutenant McGee a little bit, these are the questions I asked her for the interview.

Question: What is your definition of Public Relations?

Response: Building and gaining community support.

Question: What is the hardest part of your job?

Response: Since I am so new, I am still learning so many things at once. I still need to know what course of action needs to take place and who the correct people are to ask for answers.

Question: What do you think is different between Public Relations in the service and civilian world?

Response: I think they are really similar. I haven’t worked outside of the service for Public Relations, but I think they are the same when it comes with coming together and meeting a goal.

Question: What happened to the person that previously had this job?

Response: With the military, we work with the three corner stones and Lieutenant Murphy just switched duties. He works with me with Media Relations, Community Relations, and Internal Information. They switch duties so people can become more well rounded and keep learning different jobs. In my department, we move after two years to a different part of the country just to be refreshed and energized.

Question: So after two years, you wont be living in New Jersey anymore?

Response: No, I will be assigned a different place to live. That’s another reason why I joined the Air Force because it enables me to travel. I want to live in Italy, and all over. If I hate the Air Force after four years, then I can move on, but at least I can say I served my country and I love that.

Question: If you had one wish to make Public Relations better, what would it be?

Response: Having every answer at your fingertips.

Question: How can the Air Force become more popular and well known?

Response: I would say, to continue to tell people our story. That we are much more then people in a uniform. The story on, “The Today Show,” is a great example of that airmen’s story. Some people are intimidated by people in the service, but were just normal people too.

Question: What is your next step?

Response: I am going to continue to honor my three years I have left on my four-year contact with the Air Force. I am moving in a year, so when I move I am going to get more experience.

Question: What keeps you motivated to come to work every day?

Response: I work with really great people and I love my job. I might have to work ten or even eleven hours sometimes, but it’s ok because I am doing what I love and it’s a part of who I am.

Question: If you were to get out of the Air Force tomorrow, what organization would you like to work for?

Response: Well I know this is silly because we just spoke about it but I would love to work for “The Today Show.” It would be a dream come true.

Question: How will Public Relations change in ten years?

Response: Well, ten years ago I had no idea that I wanted to be involved with Public Relations. Since I was just a kid at that time, I don’t know the exact tactics that they used. I do believe that companies used advertising and marketing a lot more compared to Public Relations back then. In ten years, I believe companies will hold Public Relations at a higher level and less about advertising and marketing.

Question: What makes Public Relations important?

Response: In Public Relations, the opportunities are endless. It doesn’t matter what job you have, or what degree you earn, public relations is needed everywhere.

Question: Many people wish they could go back in time and change something in the past in their career, what would you change?

Response: I am a firm believer of never regretting anything, so nothing. Of course I have made mistakes, but with those mistakes I have learned from them and everything. So whether I have made a mistake or not, it is a learning experience.

After the interview was over, I thanked Lieutenant McGee for everything she did for me. She was extremely nice and was a great person to contact for this interview. From the moment I met her, I had a feeling she knew what she was speaking about, very educated, and was confident in herself. With the smile on her face speaking about her job, it was easy to see she truly loves what she does. I am proud to have met her, and hope that one day I will wake up and be as happy as she is going to work. She is one of the most proud and positive people I have ever met. I am honored that she represents the Public Relations Department for the United States Air Force.

[To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]