Thursday, April 10, 2014

Training the modern-day PIO ... what should he/she know?

There is no doubt that social convergence is putting extraordinary pressure on today's Public Information Officers (PIO) ... also called Emergency Information Officers (EIO)...btw: i prefer that term since no one should mistake the job for a PR gig ...). So what should an aspiring PIO be taught? 

I believe the curriculum (and this applies for one-day crash seminars to full term courses) should be divided into three main tracks: 

  1. learning the basics of emergency management ...IMS/ICS ... where the PIO fits in the big picture and his/her role 
  2. Crisis/Risk Communications: basic techniques to ensure effective messaging in various situations 
  3. social networks and related technologies: how to use social media ... on what platform ... and, very importantly, how to monitor it during emergencies.

Lets first look at the EM requirements. You'd be surprised to find out how many people assigned to the role of PIO or EIO ... or to speak/coordinate emergency info for their agencies during crises/disasters ... have NO emergency management knowledge whatsoever.  So, what to learn?  

Secondly, the PIO cannot effectively coordinate the planning/delivery of emergency information to the public if he/she doesn't have a solid understanding of how people access and process info during a crisis and how to communicate effectively. Hence the need to learn to use a crisis communications approach

This includes matching crisis comms planning with an organization's hazard identification and risk analysis effort to ensure that what concerns the public (and therefore communicators) is not forgotten by the EM or BCP/COOP specialists. What does that mean? It means focusing on the five Ps
  • procedures
  • people
  • preparation 
  • practice 
  • platform
Finally, social networks and related technology is the big force behind the changes in the PIO world and in crisis communications. From the evolving tech in the EOC, and in the field (as used by first responders) to innovative tech in the media ...It should all matter to the PIO especially how mobile devices keep evolving.

At the most basic level, it means getting familiar with the most popular social networking platforms.

It also means keeping up with alerting and notification tools (most of which now include social networks and mobile platforms) and crowdsourced platforms that allow for a better comprehension of how an incident evolves (crisis mapping, validation tools, etc). That's where the social monitoring (or listening) component comes in.

Social media monitoring is now at the heart of the considerations that PIO face during incidents. From deciding who should do it ... to how to operationalize social data ... that element alone is enough to keep most PIOs busy for a long time.

So, what do you think that new PIOs/EIOs should be learning? 

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