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Army Air Force Navy

Public Affairs Officer

OFFICER | Full Time, Part Time


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Overview

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

Work 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.

Career Overview

Transcript

TITLE:

Public Affairs Officer

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: I’m Lieutenant Commander Christine Hurov from Greenwood, Nova Scotia. I’m a Public Affairs Officer at the Military Public Affairs Team here in Ottawa. 

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: The work of a Public Affairs Officer is extremely varied, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. Our core job is to tell the Canadian Armed Forces story to Canadians. But there’s so many different ways that we do that. Sometimes I’m working with Image Techs creating products that are going to go out on social media, or go out to families; sometimes it’s working in an office; I’ve been deployed; you have special events working for a commander, working as part of a team – there’s just so many different ways that you do Public Affairs in this institution, and it definitely has kept me interested and kept me motivated.

More than ever, we live in a media-dominated world. In addition to mainstream media, the explosion of social media tools, technologies, their potential and their reach makes telling the Canadian Armed Forces story that much more challenging in a complex information environment. 

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: Information is everywhere now, right? We’re constantly connected, we’re constantly seeking new information. So Public Affairs has to keep up with that – we’ve moved to live-streaming and video capabilities, we’ve moved onto social media platforms, and we’re really looking for the best ways to tell those stories, because there are so many amazing stories of Canadian Armed Forces members that we want to share with Canadians.

Ultimately, a Public Affairs Officer’s most important responsibility is to protect the Armed Forces’ most valuable equity: the trust of Canadians.

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: Credibility and truth are the keystones of what we do as a Public Affairs Officer, whether that’s interacting with our commanders, preparing them to brief media or speak to the public, or if we’re speaking directly to the public or through media ourselves. Everything we do has to meet the highest standards of credibility and truth, and that is our currency.

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: We get this front-row seat to so many special events and deployments that, as a Public Affairs Officer, that’s just amazing. For deployment specifically, you really get to bring value to your commander through Public Affairs. You have a direct line, you’re integrated into the command team, into the planning and the operations, and it’s really a great opportunity to really work on that Public Affairs – that traditional communications – alongside the evolving social media, the evolving information sphere, and really bringing that value to your commander is phenomenal.

On completion of their military and occupational training, Public Affairs Officers are posted to Army, Navy or Air Force bases or to a headquarters here in Canada.  

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: Your first posting as a Public Affairs Officer – we like to say it’s when you get to break in your badge. Some Public Affairs Officers will get to go be a one-of Public Affairs Officer on a base or at a small formation, where it really is you and your command team and you are running the Public Affairs show. It’s absolutely the best feeling in the world when a plan that you’ve started comes to fruition and is completed and went well. So you really get to hold all of the reins and learn a lot during that time. You may also be posted to a Public Affairs shop, where you’ll be one of two or three junior officers working for a senior Public Affairs Officer at a higher-level command. Again, this is a great opportunity where you get to learn so much; you get mentorship from the other officers, and you work at a higher command level.

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.

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER CHRISTINE HUROV: I just look back on these experiences and it’s amazing – the opportunities I’ve been given, the things I’ve been able to do, the work I’ve been able to do. It’s been hard work, no doubt, but I love the work that I do and I think it’s so important and so critical. And that information will just continue to become an important part of how we do our work in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Related Civilian Occupations

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

Training

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 12 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.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

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.

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

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

Entry plans

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.

Part time options

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.

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 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.

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 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.