Public Affairs Officer

Job description

Public Affairs Officers provide sound communications advice at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, and act as key advisors to military commanders during domestic and international operations.

Public Affairs Officers are advisors on all aspects of external and internal communications. They are skilled in developing, executing and evaluating communications approaches designed to inform the public of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) roles, activities and work.

The primary responsibilities of a Public Affairs Officer are to:

  • Analyze and evaluate attitudes in the national and international media
  • Contribute to policy development
  • Gather and provide information internally and externally
  • Communicate with journalists, special interest groups and individuals regarding Defence
Transcript

Public Affairs Officer

STACHURA: Our Canadian soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen are making history and we have the responsibility to tell Canadians what the military is doing out there.

CONDLY: We are the medium between our members in the field and the nation they serve. We’re Public Affairs Officers in the Canadian Forces.

I’m Captain Cheryl Condly from St-Albert, Alberta, Public Affairs Officer for 19 Wing Comox.

And I’m Captain Krzysztof Stachura, from Regina, Saskatchewan, Public Affairs Officer at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.

TITLE:
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER

CONDLY: Public Affairs Officers do two main things. One of them is manage information and the other is to provide advice to commanders. Within those two jobs, though, are many many aspects of what we do. We do communications with the external audience, we work with media, we do internal communications to let Canadian Forces members know new things that are going on, we participate and coordinate outreach activities, so that we’re really involved with the community.

STACHURA: When a brigade comes home from Afghanistan with lot of medals, I see my role as helping the soldiers tell people what it is the military REALLY does.

And not just communicating to the media, but also taking interest in going out to talk to schools, talking to key leadership groups about their experience. And we do fantastic stuff all over the world and people really want to hear about what it is that we do.

CONDLY: Whether it’s a dramatic search-and-rescue mission off the coast of Vancouver Island, our infantry on the offensive with our NATO partners in Afghanistan or a hat trick in the base hockey league, our role is the same: to help get out the story of the men and women who have volunteered to serve with the Canadian Forces.

Everybody has a story and everyone’s story deserves to be told. There’s so many incredibly interesting and professional people and I help get that story out to Canadians so they have a better understanding of us.

STACHURA: Public Affairs is one of those jobs where you have to be very self-sufficient. I think it’s important to have good oral and written communication skills. It’s important to feel comfortable dealing with reporters and with new people.

Where I am right now, I enjoy the daily interaction I get with the community and the media. It’s not only an office job but one that requires self-direction and I only have to report to one person on base. Not many junior officers have that open-door policy with the Brigade Commander where you can just walk in and talk about the important issues that are occupying your leader’s time.

CONDLY: You’re using all your journalistic skills to tell the biggest story in the world from an inside perspective -- working with national networks and local reporters, covering everything from VIP visits to multi-national operations, but also filing stories for the internal communication network.

Not every Canadian Forces member is a born communicator, but they all have something to say that Canadians need to hear and that’s where we come in.

STACHURA : There’s a lot of education, making people feel comfortable, getting people to understand that the goal is not to talk to the media, it’s to talk to PEOPLE and the media is only one way to get the message out there.

I tell people all the time that you should never be afraid to talk about what you do. Whether there’s a camera looking at you or not, it doesn’t change the way you do your job.

CONDLY: By now, you might be wondering how you can join us and become a professional military Public Affairs Officer. Well, if you’re a university graduate in journalism, communications or public relations -- or if you majored in another subject but have a good grasp of world events and good writing and public speaking skills -- you may be able to move directly into the Forces as a Commissioned Public Affairs Officer.

After you complete your Basic Officer Training, you’ll move on to a 6-month Public Affairs Officer course. That’s where you’ll learn the best way to tell the story of what the men and women of the Canadian Forces are doing here in Canada and overseas. And of course you’ll be collecting your full officer’s salary and all your benefits all the way through training and Public Affairs Officer school.

More than ever, we live in a media-dominated world. Knowing how to get the real story of our soldiers out to the Canadian public through all that noise and clutter is a great challenge and it’s also a great career.

Anyone who’s interested in journalism, in public relations, in communications, any of that type of work, I think would absolutely be interested in being a member of the Public Affairs team.

STACHURA: It’s a career that allows you to develop a relationship with commanders that most other jobs don’t let you have. If you like being autonomous and at the centre of the action all the time, then being a Public Affairs Officer might be just the challenge you’re looking for.

Overview

Working environment

Public Affairs Officers work in a modern office setting. They may work in a wide variety of environments such as major bases and various headquarters across Canada and abroad. They may also be required to deploy anywhere in the world to support CAF operations during times of conflict, peace support operations or humanitarian missions.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Public Affairs Officer is $51,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Navy) or Captain, their salary is approximately $74,000 per year.

Public Affairs Officers are initially placed in positions that expose them to a variety of tasks and situations. With this experience, they may be deployed on international operations and exposed to different types of media. As they gain knowledge and experience, senior Public Affairs Officers have opportunities to develop plans and policies that influence the way public affairs are conducted, including national-level public affairs issues.

Public Affairs Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Media Relations Manager
  • Marketing Strategist
  • Journalist
  • Special Events Coordinator

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Training

Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

All CAF Public Affairs training is centralized at the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre in Gatineau, Quebec. The intensive six-month course is designed to provide candidates with the tools and knowledge required to support public affairs activities at a large-scale base, formation and deployed task force. The course focuses on developing the knowledge and skills required to advise a Commander on public affairs, create communications products and tools, conduct media relations, public affairs planning and internal communications, coordinate a media event, foster community relations, support public affairs operations, manage the production of audio-visual products and develop and demonstrate officer-like qualities.

Specialty training

Public Affairs Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Strategic Communications Management and Policy Development
  • Contingency and Crisis Communications
  • Stakeholder Relations
  • New Media Management
  • Middle Management and Leadership Development
  • Operations Information and Management
  • International Operations

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Public Affairs Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Advanced Designated Spokesperson Training
  • Intermediate and Advanced Public Affairs
  • Advanced Public Affairs Planning

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Entry plans

Direct entry

As this occupation’s focus is on communications, applicants must excel in either or both official languages. If you already have a university degree in Communications, Public Relations, International Relations or Journalism, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Previous experience working in public affairs, public relations or journalism is an asset. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Navy, Army, Air Force

Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Public Affairs Officers may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force. They are employed to provide communications advice at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, and act as key advisors to military commanders during operations. Those employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at CAF bases, wings, home ports and units at locations within Canada.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Training for Public Affairs Officers takes about six months and is centralized at the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre in Gatineau, Quebec.

Working environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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