Public Information Officers (PIO) spend an awful lot of time with the media and it can that take up a lot of focus, but shouldn’t be your only focus. Relying on media contacts alone doesn’t mean you’ll be as successful as you need to be when trying to deliver information or engage the community and maintain control of your message.
Whether you want to deliver information on school updates, need to fill a city council meeting, are preparing for major weather events, or are seeking community feedback, there are many other opportunities for you to reach out to your community.
If you’re looking to regain that focus and retain some information control, it’s time to look past the media and get out into the community itself. Now, you personally can only reach so far. That means you’ve got to be strategic about where you send information, who you spend time on the phone with, and what you provide.
Making that determination relies on unique factors for your community and the nature of the communication. However, prepping for that almost always comes down to figuring out who can reach the most people the fastest.
So, Who Has the Largest Community Local People Lists?
When you’re trying to figure out what contacts to make, think about what organizations and people have large lists that can reach your constituent’s. Local schools – which can be sent information through email blasts – are a great place to start because you’re able to reach parents and leaders who may be caring for children during an emergency.
Perhaps you have one or two especially large employers in the area. Giving them information can help it get into the hands of much of your community.
Churches now tend to have email lists for their congregations, local farmers’ markets are building email lists for coupons and other information, community groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, and even popular blogs or Facebook pages about local government.
Share outreach opportunities and team up with these sources to help deliver important information when you need it. You can also reach out to friendly groups or those who may be impacted when a new ordinance is being considered.
Modern technology gives you plenty of opportunities to deliver information to all of these groups. You can either send things out via email and hope that they’ll get opened and shared, or you could host conference calls and deliver the information to every participant. You might not have as many people dial-in, but you’ll have a chance to explain what information is provided, how it should be read, and how it can best be used.
These third-party groups won’t always deliver your message to everyone, but they are a great planning tool to help you prepare, and they’ll be especially helpful during a disaster or another emergency.
Disaster Response And Community Contacts
One of the most common things PIOs deal with are disasters and crises. Usually these are storms and natural events, activities involving police, crimes and their response, or concerns over a specific person in government.
Your job is to share information regarding the nature of the event, its response, recovery actions, and objectives that are relevant to the community at large. In the event of a natural disaster, that community is large. It’s best to take a page out of FEMA’s playbook and create a list of contacts today that you can use to make sure you reach these identified important groups:
- disaster victims and other impacted groups;
- outside general public;
- affected jurisdiction and community leaders;
- private sector businesses (both those impacted and those who may be in a position to assist with disaster response);
- media and local groups (e.g. churches, shelters, food banks);
- nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (e.g., American Red Cross);
- response and recovery organizations (e.g., urban search and rescue, utilities); and
- volunteer groups (e.g., Community Emergency Response Team – CERT, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters – VOAD).
All of those elements are important contacts during a disaster. The media is just a small part of the overall response, though it can be a good resource for directly reaching your constituents. Don’t forget to target those running shelters and other places where people congregate in during an emergency. If you have a shelter in a local high school, it’s leadership is one of the best opportunities you have for delivering information to the people who need it most.