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?
How PIOs can Build Better Relationships with the Media
Give us an overview of your role and what it entails on a daily basis.
I operate as the primary FBI media representative in the state of Arkansas. I respond to FBI critical incidents, answer a variety of daily media requests, write numerous press releases about federal investigations, and highlight compelling FBI cases for media and public attention. I also work to maintain an active FBI Little Rock social media presence and continue to build relationships with numerous media, law enforcement, and community leaders throughout Arkansas.
What do you love about your job?
I love that every day is different and that my work has tremendous impact on both my local community and the entire United States.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Managing expectations of both media reporters and federal investigators. They have wildly different perspectives and goals, so meeting in the middle is a constant balancing act which requires clear communication and mutual respect.
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?
Some of the major critical events I have responded to include: 1) Beaumont serial bombing 2) Santa Fe TX high school shooting 3) January 6th Capitol siege 4) Kenosha, WI riots. During every critical incident, I learned valuable lessons regarding communication and partnerships.
What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?
It's always exciting to be at the forefront of breaking news in an agency like the FBI. We handle criminal and national security matters, so every day we deal with a multitude of threats which range from spies to gangs and terrorists to cyber attacks. Working in communications for the Bureau is truly a dream come true!
What would you say is the biggest misconception about being a PIO?
Tough question, but I would say PIOs are frequently seen as deliberately sharing too much information by investigators and simultaneously not sharing enough information with reporters. This problem causes numerous misconceptions and trust issues on both sides, and it can make certain cases or incidents difficult to manage effectively.
One piece of advice for those wanting to start a career as a Public Information Officer or comms professional
Reach out to established PIOs and communication professionals to gain insight into this field. I have learned more from coffee conversations with other PIOs than I have from any book or training. Fellow PIOs can provide a wealth of knowledge and experience from which new communication professionals can quickly learn!
What's your top tip or piece of advice regarding social media engagement in public safety?
Show humor, emotions, and compassion on social media. Some agencies tend to lean towards "just the facts," bland messaging techniques. These posts are usually disregarded by social media users, whereas putting emotions and feelings into your communications usually attracts more attention and amplifies your messaging.
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?
I agree with the adage that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Effectively using photos and videos to show the good work of your agency is the mark of a skilled PIO... it's also a skill I'm still learning.
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO who might not have one?
Well, as a PIO, I clearly have a biased view, but I believe that effective PIOs are force-multipliers for law enforcement agencies. They effectively manage media critical incidents, amplify the good work of other officers, improve public perception of an agency, and are invaluable in combatting misinformation and rumors which can potentially hurt high-profile cases.