Being asked multiple questions on a daily basis is a big part of being a Public Information Officer.

After all, the 'information' part of the job title is a clue in itself. Sometimes though, the same questions keep coming up and you find it takes you away from many other tasks that are just as important.

The benefit of having an online frequently asked questions for the media is that it's the first line of defence if you're on your own and will no doubt reduce call and email volume during busier or unpredictable times.

Also, if you're a solo or part-time PIO you need to be sure there is some form of business continuity which is a little more sophisticated than tapping the side of your head and saying 'it's all up there'. That won't help anyone if you are off sick or on vacation.

We've put together a quick guide on how to create a useful and time-saving FAQ that will help your media contacts too.

Decide where it's going to live

You may feel uncomfortable having a totally accessible FAQ in the first instance. In which case, you could look into the possibility of having a password protected media area on your website which means you have to approve everyone who signs up. It's a little challenging at first, but once it's done, you'll be glad it's there as a resource.

If you don't want to host anything online, you can always produce a PDF version which you can send out to your contacts but this is often hard to keep up to date and this still an element of manual work which you probably don't have the time for. There's also no control who it gets shared with, so you may be better off defaulting to the open web option.

If you use LinkedIn to keep in touch with the media then you could also create a closed group to host this information, but again, this requires a certain level of maintenance.

Who will own the FAQ?

Make sure that if it isn't you, there's someone who is reliable and comfortable with keeping it up to date. There's nothing worse than out of date information on the media section of a website. This person will need to regularly check on any new content and coordinate with people who are providing information.

Look at all your channels for questions

Social media channels will have questions that people have asked more than once, so you can use these to add to your FAQ. They may not be questions specifically asked by the media, but you will find that there are some here that the media will ask anyway.

Ask around internally

The people that probably get asked the most questions are going to be those that are out and about, interacting with the public. What do they get asked that is something that would fit in the remit of media interest?

How about operators on your organization phone lines? There's sure to be some sort of log of commonly asked questions. How many of them are media related? Equally, you could always create a mini FAQ with the help of subject experts. There are sure to be plenty in your organization.

Check in with your media contacts

It's always worth sending an email out to your contacts to ask them outright what they wish they could see more of and what are the most common questions they have for you.

Create categories for easy searching

Once you have all of your questions together you'll likely see a pattern forming and will be able to group different types of questions into categories. You can also see where there are any missing that you know you get asked yourself.  Categories could be;

  • Staff information and biographies
  • Interview requests
  • Statistics or key data
  • In the event of emergencies
  • Accreditation and location access
  • Logo and image requests

Once you have these categories laid out, it makes it easier for people to find information and your web pages will more likely be searchable.

Keep the FAQ concise and easy to read on mobile and ensure that wherever possible you signpost and link to other useful information on your organization website.

You may be more used to seeing FAQ pages on brand or product websites, but as people are so used to the way brands communicate with customers, then there's no reason why they shouldn't get a similar experience when working with a public information team.

July 8, 2021

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