Monday, November 10, 2014

Revising the training

As you may have guessed, this past week, I was up at the Emergency Management Institute at Emmitsburg, Maryland. I was part of a team that was called there to revise FEMA's public information officer training classes, and I have got to tell you it was an honor to be called there. I was among the best of the best - almost a Top Gun school for PIO's with others who teach these courses - and many others - around the country.

Me; Kevin Tunell from Yuma, Arizona; Joe Farago from Florida and Larry Hill from Virginia
While we were working, we learned a little bit about the history of the classes. Back in 1989, a number of FEMA's external affairs officers got together to put together a class to train PIOs how to do their job. It would be one of those fundamental classes that would give some hands-on experience and some solid tips on how to 'deal with' the media.

Back in 1989, that was pretty much all you needed. Other than faxes, phones and mail, how else would a PIO get in touch with a reporter? And, what was media outside of print, radio and TV? Those were indeed simpler times, and while the classes were updated through the years, those updates were scabbed onto the existing framework, making for some awkward transitions in the course material.

 A press conference held in the early 1980s
Today, though, we're looking at a totally reenvisioined world where the public information officer works. In today's social media and Internet driven world, things like deadlines mean a whole lot less than they used to, because even outlets that were heavily deadline driven have the ability to update everything on the fly.

Our job was to blow the entire course of study down to its framework and ask very important questions. Why should we keep doing the course? What are the critical skill sets that are important moving forward? Most importantly, how do we stop approaching social media and the internet as something 'new' and just start seeing it as another tool in the PIO toolbox?

The reporter's tools may change, but the skills are still necessary
We spent the better part of three days last week in deep thought on the materials, and the course designers ate up our input. The next step will be the challenge - taking our thoughts and input we gathered from other instructors around the country and pound it into shape. Talk is that in late spring or early summer, we may be able to see a pilot of the course offered to shake the bugs out of it.

Once that happens, I look forward to sharing with you some of the important changes that were made to the program.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

1 comment:

  1. This is a notable endeavor. Great to see the MPIO team at EMI working hard with Phil Politano, Tom Olshanski and Rich Flanagan. I enjoyed the reunion and a ton of laughs.

    Dr. Tom Phelan