Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Getting the good news out

Being a public information officer isn't necessarily all about rushing to get out the latest life-saving information. Sometimes, it's about building the relationship with the community. Showing how our first responders give freely of themselves to help their communities.

When I worked my first job in the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation, we were called routinely by assignment editors. Yes, the media does want to cover the hard-hitting stories of the day, but they also understand that human interest stories connect with their readers, listeners and viewers. 
Members of the Tallahassee FD shopping with underprivileged kids...
So, when I hear the story about Tallahassee firefighters hosting their annual Shop With A Firefighter event to benefit underprivileged children, I know it was the result of a smart PIO reaching out to his or her contacts in the media to make this happen.

Pinellas County's Ride and Run with the Stars event
Or, when I see news about the Pinellas County Sheriff's office holding their 21st Annual Ride and Run with the Stars event, that raises money for buying gifts and food for deserving families, I know it's the result of some hard work and determination from the public information staff at that office. 

Or, when I heard about the Secret Santa who has been giving money to people in Kansas City, I knew I had to share it here.  For several years now, a wealthy businessman has been giving cash to down on their luck people during the holiday season, hoping to bring some happiness to their lives. This year, he enlisted the help of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department deputies in distributing the funds. 

Knowing that the relationship between law enforcement officers and the community has been strained in the state of Missouri, his thought was to let the officers be the bearers of good news this year. And, as CBS News' Steve Hartman found out, the reaction from the public was overwhelming.

I have seen this story a few times now, and for some reason, I still find my eyes leaking a bit every time I watch the story.

In this case, the story was good enough to draw national attention. And, when you think about it, that's exactly what it deserved.

So, as we find ourselves deeper in the holiday season, it's important to remember to keep our eyes open for stories such as these. The small acts of kindness that seem small or insignificant can help portray your agency in a good light as a community partner, and will build good will with your local media outlets, making for a very happy holiday.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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