Role of the Visual Information Manager

Article 4 min
DoD public affairs, combat camera and visual information professionals have an obligation to produce VI content to communicate to the American people, other stakeholders and audiences. Leaders who are engaged in VI management must have a more comprehensive understanding of the associated references, policies and processes needed to comply with DoD VI records management requirements. 

Although not every unit has a VI manager billet, there is someone in every unit who is assigned the responsibilities of VI management. At some point, everyone in a PA/VI shop has a shared responsibility for properly managing VI content, products and processes. It is also the responsibility of the VI manager to share their knowledge and train others on VI policies, and the duties and responsibilities of a VI manager.

According to DoDI 5040.02, Enclosure 8, "organizational elements or functions within organizations whose principal responsibility is to produce VI products and/or provide VI services (regardless of functional alignment) shall be managed by a designated VI manager." These responsibilities also include managing records that are in addition to the VI products transmitted for accessioning and archiving.

The role of the VI Manager includes archive management, records management, image transmission, personnel training, resource acquisitions, equipment lifecycle, policy adherence, budget management.
The responsibility of managing a multitude of VI processes falls into the role of the VI Manager. It's important that your shop has a document, sometimes called an SOP, that outlines your VI processes and identifies associated responsibilities for individuals involved with your shop's VI processes.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION
VIRIN: 210119-D-PA656-0001

Proper VI management requires your shop to have plans for the creation and lifecycle management of its VI products. Content creators create VI products that are in support of organizational and DoD communication requirements and priorities. Depending on your organizational structure and mission, your shop may be tasked to create VI products to support a variety of customers and their missions, including:

  • Intel
  • History
  • Diplomacy
  • Base/post support
  • Planning
  • Training
  • Public affairs

All VI products must consistently be created to effectively support organizational and DoD requirements and priorities in a way that conforms to DoD VI policy. This means that content creators and managers must be proficient with some or all of the associated VI processes including, but not limited to:

  • Accessioning VI products to DVIDS
  • Image selection and quality control
  • Post-processing techniques that conform to DoDI 5040.02, Enclosure 10, and guidelines in the DoD Visual Information Style Guide (VISG) 
  • Local archive management in accordance with DoD policy on lifecycle management of permanent VI records
  • Planning, requesting and executing your allocated annual budget
  • Equipment lifecycle management and procurement

Knowledge Foundations

The federal government requires proper management of records of information. The U.S. Code Title 44 Chapter 31 requires that the federal government shall "make, preserve, and furnish" records of information. Specifically, this includes records that document or depict "the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions." According to the OMB Circular A-130, the government defines information as, "any communication or representation of knowledge such as facts, data, or opinions in any medium or form, including textual, numerical, graphic, cartographic, narrative, electronic, or audiovisual forms."

Visual Information (VI) is the more common term encompassing audiovisual information capabilities, including photos, video, multimedia, graphics, etc., within the DoD. The Department of Defense fulfills the requirement to manage VI through adherence to policy and references, such as the DoDI 5040.02. Here are some other policies and references unique to properly managing VI within the DoD.

  • DoDI 5040.02 establishes policy, assigns responsibilities and prescribes procedures for managing DoD VI records, resources and activities.
  • DoDI 5040.07 establishes DoD policy and assigns responsibility for the creation, acquisition and life cycle management of VI productions.
  • The Defense Visual Information Records Schedule identifies types of imagery as either temporary or permanent, as well as the instructions for disposition and timeline to send them for archiving.
  • VISG provides standardized guidance on writing captions and entering metadata associated with all DoD Visual Information.
  • The DMA Controlled Vocabulary list is designed to assist the DoD Visual Information caption writer in entering relevant, standardized keywords to facilitate long-term archiving and accessibility. Note: a common access card (CAC) is required to view the list.

In addition to being familiar with these documents, you must know your service level and local policies, as well as the standard operating procedures of your command and of your shop.

Skills for VI Managers

Be organized! It's easy to become overwhelmed by your own content unless you have a plan that outlines your accessioning and local archive management procedures, for example. Being organized is also necessary to help you to more efficiently track and meet requirements and to support mission objectives.

Be informed! The policy may not always be clear as it applies to a given situation, and it's unlikely you'll always have the answers. Knowing where to go for resources, who to ask and how to find information is a critical skill for every VI manager.

Be an advocate! VI managers must also regularly audit and evaluate current VI practices within their shop to identify efficiencies and to introduce new, or more effective capabilities. Implementing these changes and/or making the necessary recommendations ensures VI remains operationally, technically and tactically relevant to the unit's mission.

Being an advocate also means being able to articulately brief your chain of command and customers on your capabilities and how they are value-added to your unit mission.

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