Know what you know and what you don’t know

You are an expert.
At least, everyone thinks so.

That’s why you are the go-to person for all sorts of inquiries, including what is happening with an incident, what is happening in your agency, and all of the crazy inquiries from the general public, conspiracy theorists and sometimes elected officials. The long and short of it is that because you deal in information, and know where to get it, everyone assumes that you will know anything.

The public information officer has to be knowledgeable.

Here are some things you need to know or be able to get quickly when an emergency happens:

  • Information about your agency — Number of employees, agency history and programs, your subject-matter experts, website and social media accounts, a phone number for updated information.
  • Leadership, policies, plans, procedures
  • Information about the incident — Who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Applicable laws
  • Your community — The counties in your state, the cities in your county, general demographics, political situations
  • The news media — History of media relations, any hot topics about your agency, hot topics in other agencies

Be willing to ask questions and continue to strive to learn as much as you can. The more you know, the more comfortable you can be on camera and in representing your agency.