Lina Johnson knows the importance of building strong relationships to leverage local media at Tinker AFB, Okla., to get the word out about Exchange events and information.
“Earning respect and trust opens doors,” said Johnson, an office assistant at the Tinker Exchange. “Because we consistently provide important and reliable information for the military community, local media outlets are more willing to publish what we send them.”
Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull recently recognized Johnson as the 2018 Exchange Public Affairs Representative of the Year. She led a network of 110 associates in producing the most Exchange mentions in newspapers, news websites and third-party social media channels. Johnson garnered more than 1,200 positive media reports about the Tinker Exchange.
Critical to relevancy, mission
The Public Affairs program is critical for communicating the Exchange’s relevancy and mission to Soldiers, Airmen and families. PARs work hand in hand with the Exchange’s Dallas-based Public Affairs office to share news to with their community through customized press releases and social media posts, keeping Warfighters in the know about the value and benefit their local Exchange provides.
Shull showed his appreciation to Johnson and other PAR superstars from each region by giving each of them a Director/CEO coin and Exchange gift card.
Other leading PARs also understand what it takes to help the Exchange shine through the PAR program.
Putting military experience to good use
Chris Litch, visual merchandiser at USAG Bavaria Exchange and an Army Veteran, puts his military experience to good use as a PAR. Litch excels at building a sense of community for Warfighters and families in Germany.
“Establishing good communication with key people is critical,” Litch said. “Fortunately, I’ve known and been working with the USAG Bavarian PAO director, AFN Bavaria, Europe Stars & Stripes and our local MWR and USO representatives for nearly 15 years.”
Doing simple things well
Michael Casserly, an office assistant at the Colorado Springs Consolidated Exchange, Colo., tries to keep his role as a PAR as straightforward as possible.
“Being effective as a PAR is about doing the simple things well,” Casserly said. “Making sure that I am sending releases to the right people helped me when I was just getting started. And, talking with my public affairs offices helps me know what they are willing to run.
To say that 2018 was a banner year for the PAR program is an understatement. These valuable team members kept Soldiers, Airmen and their families informed about Exchange events and information by generating more than 5,000 media reports,
an 18 percent increase over 2017.
PARs don’t always get to see firsthand the fruits of their labor. Johnson likes to think that she had a small part in helping some of the local military community win some of the Exchange’s sweepstakes prizes.
“We had several winners here at Tinker in 2018.” Johnson said. “The better we do at our job as PARs in getting the word out, the better chance that military families have in benefitting from all the great opportunities that the Exchange offers.”
The 2018 Exchange PAR of the Year winners are:
PAR of the Year: Lina Johnson, Tinker AFB/Vance AFB
Runner-up: Vanessa Mike, Fort Bliss
Third place: Chris Litch, Grafenwoehr
Exchange PAR of the Year Honorable Mentions:
Natasa Stroud, Fort Gordon
Vincent Lesesne, Yokota Air Base
Michael Casserly, Colorado Springs Consolidated
5 Tips from the Top PARs for Success
Many PARs are effective in getting Exchange events and programs publicized through their local media channels. Here are a few ideas that have helped Lina Johnson, Chris Litch and Michael Casserly succeed:
- Build relationships: Get to know your public affairs officer. Have a face-to-face meeting and follow up by phone. The local PAO will be more likely to work with you if they know, respect and trust you.
- Communicate Exchange news regularly: Let your PAO know that you are sending news releases about Exchange events and programs.
- Stay engaged with all media channels: Visit your installation’s social media sites daily. Check installation newspaper and news websites weekly.
- Look for new sources: Find other supportive organizations and outlets. Ask them to post/publish Exchange news.
- Send in coverage: Sending in media reports helps Exchange leadership stay informed and helps PARs receive recognition for their hard work.