Thread: PI as a career

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    Default PI as a career

    I'm trying to get hired as a career public information officer (I currently am one for my volunteer company). I'm looking for any advice as to any edge I can get. Just as some background, I have taken the basic PIO class, and am signed up for the advanced one in December. I'm also taking any other classes that I think might be geared toward the PI profession.

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    Default A journalism course

    If you have a community college with a journalism program, I'd take a basic reporting and newswriting course. It will give you a good idea where the media folks are coming from when you encounter them, and may help you provide story tips to pass along to reporters.

    Also, get to know the newspaper, radio and TV reporters in your area. Telling a prospective employer that you have a good working relationship with reporters may carry the day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by writeronfire View Post
    If you have a community college with a journalism program, I'd take a basic reporting and newswriting course. It will give you a good idea where the media folks are coming from when you encounter them, and may help you provide story tips to pass along to reporters.

    Also, get to know the newspaper, radio and TV reporters in your area. Telling a prospective employer that you have a good working relationship with reporters may carry the day.
    I'll take that all into consideration, and try to implement that. Thanks! I'm also going to see about maybe getting the AP style book (for writing).

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    Default Tips for becoming a PIO

    I guess the first requirement of "wanting" to be a Public Information Officer is already taken care of. That is usually the biggest challenge departments face, so someone that actually wants to do it is an amazing find.

    Here are some other things that I will suggest:

    Take a Crisis Communications class. These are offered at a few colleges
    on-line and many others that you can attend in the evening.

    Hopefully the Advanced PIO class was helpful and I will suggest that you take the new online FEMA class called External Affairs.

    After you have established a good relationship with the media in your area, ask one of the radio stations to record your voice as you read from a prepared script. Pick a topic that is pertinate to firefighting and include the Departments name that you are hoping to get on with. This will score you some points as you play it for them during your interview.

    I have about 100 other tips if you need them.

    Good luck and I hope I helped.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustforFire View Post
    I have about 100 other tips if you need them.
    Might I ask you to unload them on me? If you'd prefer, please feel free to e-mail them to me at doug at dswpix dot net.

    Thank you for your help!

    - Doug

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    Default Some additional tips for becoming a PIO

    Here is my favorite..

    Know when to shut-up. Usually PIO's love to talk, that's what set them apart from the others. Unfortunatley, in the beginning, it may get them into trouble. The media really likes to ask the same question in different ways to see if they can get you to give them the answer they are looking for. Don't fall for that. If they ask you if that fire was arson and you reply with " the cause of the fire is not determined at this time because it is still under investigation" stick with it.

    Practice speaking into a video camera to see all your little annoying habits. Everyone has them so don't be shocked when you catch youself saying "um" 500 times in 2 min. I have a habit of shaking my head up and down when listening to a question. I thought that I was practicing active listening when really what it looks like is that I have some type of a "tick" that is only controlled by meds.

    Don't look into the camera during an interview unless you are doing a live feed. It looks damn scary!

    Never speak for another agency. Where I come from, those would be considered "Fightin words".

    Learn how to write really good press releases. The bigest complement that you can be paid is for them to cut and paste your stuff.

    When the media gets something wrong, ask them to correct it. It shows them that you are paying attention. I usually tell them that it makes them better journalist because their stories are accurate.

    I will let you digest those and post more later.

    See ya - JFF

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    If they ask you if that fire was arson and you reply with " the cause of the fire is not determined at this time because it is still under investigation" stick with it.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Couple other tips. Do not deviate from the press release. If its public information, release it. If its not, don't.

    Don't ever lie to the press.

    If you don't know the answer and you tell them you will get back to them, get back to them.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    So, essentially, credibility and follow up are the core personality traits, is what I'm getting.

    I just got in from our third fire of the night (exceptionally busy for us!), and the county PIO, who usually handles pub info for us, was either unable or unwilling (for whatever reason) to come out, so I got to play (so to speak). I didn't do all of if (one of the other chiefs did a good bit of it), but I did learn a lot. I look forward to learning more, and gaining more experience.

    Thanks to all who have replied thus far with advice and words of wisdom. Please, by all means, keep it coming!

    Take care!

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    Default George has some great points!

    Yes. You've got it. Credibility is the key to being a great PIO. You may not always have the perfect words, but being genuine and honest will always come through.

    Expanding on what George said about public information and release of information. I am in the position right now where I teach PIO's within my department "media strategy".

    This is what I mean:
    1) If it is a departmental issue and not public information, you may want to exclude yourself from the conversation that is taking place around you. This way if you are asked about it, you don't have to lie. Lying is really bad and usually not something that you can recover from.

    2) Remember the word "Transparent". This is what you agency is when it comes to information. If you are getting paid with taxpayers dollars, they get to know what you do at all times.

    3) No matter what, be the first one to tell them as quickly as you can and tell them everything that you are legaly able to. Many people think that this just applies to when things go bad. To me this is also very important when people do something right. There are many times when we forget to pat ourselves on the back. Because firefighters consider it "part of the job" when they go the extra mile, we tend to be very humble and forget that not everyone puts their life on the line evertime they go to work. I'm not saying that we should brag everytime we get, but even firefighters can go above and beyond the call of duty.

    4) Be proactive not reactive.

    5) Start thinking about the media like you fight a fire.

    A) Have the correct tools (information, where to get information if you need it)
    B) Know the dangers if you do the wrong thing
    C) Hope for the best but plan for the worst
    D) Know what to do if it starts going really wrong


    6) Always make the best out of a really bad situation (The fire destroyed $100,000 but because of the new equipment, additional or highly trained firefighters we were able to save $450,000.


    Am I at 100 yet....

    I think that I'm a little short so I will post more in a few days.

    JFF

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    Thanks, that's the sort of thing I'm looking for! I look forward to more tips of the trade, when you have the opportunity to share some more words of wisdom.

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