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?
Setting Your Agency’s Narrative Online
Give us an overview of your role and what it entails on a daily basis
I am the Public Information Officer for the Walton County Sheriff's Office. Like many others, I wear a lot of different hats and play a role in a lot of different areas of the organization. One day I am designing and implementing new signage for our fire stations and sheriff's office locations and the next I'm writing a press release about a homicide. It changes daily. One of the reasons I love this job.
What do you love about about your job?
The autonomy and purpose I get from it. It's a labor of love. I truly believe in public service and I believe what I'm doing is helping the community I serve and those who give their lives serving it beside me.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
For a while I would have said agency buy-in, but as I achieve that I think it's shifted to the frustration of watching other agencies and organizations not value or respect the position of PIO. This job is not a luxury anymore, it's a must.
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?
We had a deputy involved shooting in 2018. Our first as an agency in about 11 years. I would have focused on internal communication a lot more and prepping the deputy for what was to come. Now, I feel like I am much more aware of communication to our own employees first before the media.
What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?
Trying to enact change. Trying to change perception and inspire other agencies to focus on accountability and building brand trust.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about being a PIO?
That your job is only dealing with the news and writing press releases. If that is what you're signing up for, you're in for a rude awakening.
One piece of advice for those wanting to start a career as a Public Information Officer or comms professional
Work for someone you believe in and remember - it's not about you.
What's your top tip or piece of advice regarding social media engagement in public safety?
Don't spend too much time stewing on the haters. There are a silent majority out there who support and love what you're doing!
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?
Saramonic iPhone microphone. A bluetooth capable Nikon D3500. Extra battery port for my phone. Coffee. Lots of it.
Are there any books, podcasts or any other resources you would recommend for the comms pro?
The Government Social Media group on Facebook is a godsend. I really enjoy listening to the PIO Podcast done by Robert Tornabene. Another good podcast I've listened to recently is Cleared Hot by Andy Stumpf when he interviews John Mattingly of the Louisville Metro Police after the Breonna Taylor incident. It was eye-opening.
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO who might not have one?
If you won't, someone else is telling your story and you may not like the outcome.