|Making a Difference with
a Public Information Officer
By Cecil Cornish/PIO
Titusville Fire and Rescue Services
All fire departments have a Public Information Officer, whether one is assigned or not. Just read the daily papers, and you will see an officer on a fire ground quoted about an incident. What can your department do to market your services, sell your safety messages, and make a difference in your community? An assigned Public Information officer is just the ticket for success.
The Public Information Officer should be someone who is available at a moment’s notice and can work in an evolving situation.
Typically a PIO works 40 hours and is available on-call on the off hours. If a shift PIO is utilized, then on the off-duty days, the response can be unreliable. A backup is important to cover in the event the full-time PIO cannot respond to the incident.
Working relationships with the press is your best vehicle for marketing your department. If the press is treated as the enemy, and an adversarial atmosphere is present, then your coverage will show that. Keep the press involved in what your department is doing. Be proactive and keep control of the information they receive. The fire service is an easy sell. They want to hear about what is happening in your department. If you take out the fire and EMS calls, what else can you get coverage on? Look at the whole picture of what your department does. Bought a new piece of equipment? Thinking of buying a thermal imager? Sell it!
In order to do the job properly, the PIO will need to keep up with the technology that the news media uses. A cell phone is a must. A pager or cell paging is necessary also. The ability to fax and email a large contact base is also a needed, along with a laptop to be able to work out of the office.
Your laptop should be Internet capable and able to fax. One of the best ways you can get a feel for what the news agencies want is to go fishing. Summarize your message and send it out in a fax and email to ALL of the local news agencies. If you are working a large incident or one that has national or international interest, then the large news companies will become involved. Remember to take care of your local people. They are the ones that sell your department every day.
In closing, some thoughts…
Constantly update your contact list. Keep up with what is making the news.
Every media event should have a message. Market your department!
About the author:
is the PIO Editor at With The Command. He can be reached at 321.383.5708
x115 Office 321.383.5703 Fax or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or