Monday, August 18, 2014

The world is your classroom

There have been many times when other public information officers ask me what I think about certain situations. The recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. The twin threats of tropical storms in Hawaii. The spread of ebola in west Africa and the moving of two infected patients to Atlanta for treatment.
A World Health Organization press conference about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Has the release of public information been effective? What has the public's response to the information told us about how the release was handled?

The best part about not having incidents like these happening in your own backyard is that you get a chance to learn from those who are going through the event. In today's hyper-connected world, you can get minute-by-minute updates on what is happening just about anywhere in the world. And, as the events unfold, you can see what tactics worked and which ones didn't quite cut the muster.

I'm sure that right now, the public information staff members involved in these incidents are up to their proverbial armpits in alligators, and probably are unavailable to share their thoughts and experiences with you. Their work, however - and the work of other public spokespeople who have responded to similar incidents - is out there for all to see and learn from.

Mayor Bloomberg addresses the media after the US Air Crash 
One of the best resources a public information officer can use is YouTube. Simply enter the name of the incident you want to learn more about with the words "press conference," and you are immediately whisked back in time to when that event was the biggest event of the day.  News briefings from the day of the US Airways Flight 1549 crash into the Hudson River. From the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater to the cryptosporidium outbreak that made Toledo, Ohio's water unfit to drink, it's all out there to watch carefully and to learn from.

President Nixon addressing the media shortly after the Watergate incident
You can even go back in time to more historic events that helped shape our nation. From the confusing first moments after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Watergate press conferences conducted by Richard Nixon, there is a treasure trove of information out there for all to see.

As public information officers, our job is to do our best to ensure our agency's message is presented in the best light possible. Watching press conferences such as these can certainly help provide the guidance that you need to ensure you do your best.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist

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