Here's How Valuable A Public Information Officer Really Is To Someone In Leadership

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  • By Christine Townsend
  • Published on September 1, 2023

There are those who truly know the value of having a Public Information Officer and there are those who don't, or they don't want to know. Many don't appreciate that the career of the PIO is complicated, challenging and highly professional.

There's no denying that the PIO plays a vital role in the the large machine of public service, but the way the role is viewed has such diverse view points and inconsistencies that it's hard to really see the true value without actually doing the job.

We take a look at some of the great things that PIOs do regularly to prove to those who matter just how beneficial an experienced having a media pro on the team can be.

PIOs do more of what you don't see than you realize

It's the same as crime prevention - it's really hard to prove what didn't happen and that's the same of making sure that stories don't make it to the public domain. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that inaccurate stories don't make the headlines.

The true value in a PIO is being able to see that a bad story could break before it happens, then make sure it doesn't. They work really hard on building relationships and maintaining them. These relationships are fostered so that they can have an open dialogue with the media and this is absolutely invaluable in an emergency or a crisis when you need all the support you can get.

PIOs can help you see the problems you didn't know existed, then help you fix them

It's not just about writing a press release and giving out lines to the media. Good PIOs are hyper-aware of what's going on, not just in their own town or city but nationally and internationally. Having this awareness will help you if it looks like you're heading towards a tone-deaf statement or if there's trouble in the distance. PIOs can be a trusted advisor, and that is what's key - trust that goes in both directions.

Lean on them to be your eyes and ears so you can improve your leadership skills by listening to what they know and what they have to say.

Join the PIO Toolkit Community here

PIOs work hard on their skills to make it look effortless

Just because you're a leader it doesn't make you a natural presenter and it's only when people do it for the first time that they appreciate how hard it can be to speak on live TV or be bombarded by questions from a crazy deadline-driven media pack.

Experienced PIOs do this so regularly that they make it look easy, because that's their job. These are the people that will put themselves out there to be the face of your organization and it's no mean feat. It takes practice and a certain set of skills that don't come naturally to everyone.

The great PIO will always have the public and stakeholders at the forefront of their mind

PIOs can help you save valuable resources and money

Consider this; every poorly executed communication campaign, or worse, no comms at all costs money. We're not just talking the cost of getting things printed, social media ad costs or staff. This is about how when you get it wrong people really react and those reactions cost things like damage to property, injuries to people, stress, trauma and law suits.

A PIO will help you to manage public perception so things go wrong as little as often. As an example, when there is negative press about the police, assaults on officers and damage to police vehicles and property goes up. You can be sure that a single lawsuit will cost more than the salary of a good PIO that could have helped avoid this in the first place.

PIOs understand they are there to serve the public first and foremost

Many see how a PIO can benefit them professionally by promoting the good work they do - and yes, this is a small part of doing the job, but the great PIO will always have the public and stakeholders at the forefront of their mind.

Understanding the audiences is crucial when it comes to communication and they will help you meet the needs of those you serve and be sure to provide citizens, media and stakeholders with what they need when it really counts.

PIOs wear many hats

Community engagement, media liaison, internal communication, stakeholder management, designer, social media manager, personal assistant, film maker, spokesperson. The list goes on. PIOs don't just do the one job of talking to the media. There are so many facets to communication and it's often one of the most misunderstood roles in the public sector.

The ability to multi-task, adapt and thrive under intense scrutiny and pressure is a very special attribute. Having a good PIO is like having the best multi-tool in the box.

Good PIOs are hard to find but when you do, it's worth every investment. They are professional, they are experienced and they are dedicated. Look to them to help you evolve professionally and provide an exemplary level of service in your community.

Join the PIO Toolkit Community here