As part of the Social Media Strategies Summit for First Responders, we're highlighting the amazing speakers taking part in this two day virtual event. The event runs May 9 - 12 and features a wide-range of compelling sessions.
What is your session for SMSS about?
Increasing Your Department's Presence and Engagement Strategies on Social Media: Compassion, Competition and Consistency.
Give us an overview of your role and what it entails on a daily basis
As the Orlando Fire's Public Information Manager, I work to ensure the public's health and safety remains our top priority through both public service announcements and educational programming. This is achieved through media campaigns, public safety presentations, and event planning. It's is critical that OFD provides top-level medical and emergent care, all while preserving positive customer relationships.
What do you love about about your job?
So much. But mainly the ability to be proactive. I feel we have a chance to empower our residents to help themselves, so risk reduction is critical. Especially with CPR, since my father died of sudden cardiac arrest and I wish I knew then what I know now: that the worst thing you can do is nothing.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?Being in many places at once. You try really hard to get things off of your plate, but they pile back on so quickly. There is no rest to be able to properly plan the way you would like to.
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?The Pulse Tragedy was still the most pivotal events in my career. One for the shift in the way we saw the fire service, another for how we handled media and the legal aspect of things, but mostly how we honored the victims and the continued impact they have in our community. Never forget.
What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?
The ability to think on your feet. It's unlike other positions to where you can anticipate growth or structure of ideas. In crisis, no two incidents are the same. This means your community will process tragic events at a variety of different emotional levels. Some may be completely vested, while others may not be impacted. As a crisis communication professional, the goal is to get everyone the information they need to make the most informed decisions as soon as they can. The most difficult challenge is to not miss anyone and always be authentic. Even with the best intentions, it's only after the fact that you can see how you would handle things differently. Being in the thick of it gets cloudy.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about being a PIO?
That PIOs know everything about the department they represent. We rely on many people/departments to provide us with the most accurate information and we fact-check constantly. Sometimes we are the last to find out. I also feel that people don't realize how many things we have our hands in, like speech writing, social media posts, branding, public records requests, archiving, website updates, etc. Not just a media liaison.
One piece of advice for those wanting to start a career as a Public Information Officer or comms professional
Find a way to build internal relationships. They are the best source of good stories. There is a fine line sometimes between administration and the field, so it's is critical you have advocates within the ranks.
What's your top tip or piece of advice regarding social media engagement in public safety?
People. If it doesn't feature a person in your post, it will likely be unreliable. If you don't see an actual face in the photo or interaction in the video, it likely won't get as much traction as you had hoped for.
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?
My phone. There is no shortage of picking it up to have a real conversation. I can send emails all day, but having a discussion with tone and intention are always best.
Are there any books, podcasts or any other resources you would recommend for the comms pro?
We have a style guide which is extremely helpful for our comms team. Personally, I listen to CEOSCHOOL on Instagram and the podcast every Monday. I read a lot of leadership books. I think as a way to look inward and discover your strengths, Brené Brown has many books and resources for personal growth.
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO who might not have one?
They are here to advise you and look out for the entire organization. Being at the top as a leader can be a lonely place. You need someone to trust to relay what is being said and concerns that might be rising to importance. I think a PIO can assist with the department and leadership's image. Let them help you succeed.