Each and every PIO/spokesperson needs to follow these rules/guidelines to be successful in their job. Remember you are the face of your department and are highly visible. Represent well with a strong voice, articulate words, and positive presence.
PIO Commandment #1: always provide truthful information to the media. They will know if you are not. If you fail in this you will fail as PIO. Period.
PIO Commandment #2: always ensure you have the appropriate who, what, where, when, how and why answered before you issue any information. This will save you time from needless calls from the media with follow-up questions to something you could have already done.
PIO Commandment #3: always ensure you have vetted all photos and videos prior to releasing them. You will be amazed at the number of photos and videos released to traditional media or posted via social media by fire departments and/or their members which show less than desirable images of their organization. Safety violations, gear misuse, questionable tactical responses, body images, etc. the list goes on.
PIO Commandment #4: Remember you represent your organization. Always dress appropriately and be properly groomed when you know you will be on camera. A dress uniform or a coat and tie/dress, business attire should ALWAYS be worn. The fire ground it is a different matter. Turnout gear is most appropriate and encouraged. There is always a first impression to be made with someone.
PIO Commandment #5: always return messages from the media. It doesn’t matter how you do it (phone calls, emails or texts), just remember to do it.
PIO Commandment #6: Get to know what HIPPA and FOI mean to you as a PIO.
PIO Commandment #7: Get to know the media you work with and build a rapport with them. Friendships or simple acquaintances can go a long way in this field.
PIO Commandment #8: Get out there and meet your peers. Introduce yourself to the local law enforcement, health department, school system, local government and emergency management PIOs/spokespersons and get to know them by name and face. In large scale incidents there will be a need to potentially interface with them. 2am in the morning is not the time to first meet.
PIO Commandment #9: your opinion doesn’t matter. Your job is to state facts. No one cares what you think; they care about what you know.
PIO Commandment #10: Even off duty you are a visible person and recognized as a public servant. Whatever you say and do reflects on your company/department.