ARRL to Unveil New Course for Public Information Officers
With the many weather events and other newsworthy items of note in 2008, ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, said that it was evident around the US "that the expertise, motivational level and activities of individual Public Information Officers (PIOs) are highly variable. Some PIOs are excellent. Some retain the PIO title but are inactive, while others are motivated, but apparently not aware of the basic expectations of their role or the skills involved."
Pitts equated the PIO situation to the situation faced that ARES® faced several years ago: "The corrective action for ARES -- that resulted in major success -- began with the design and implementation of the ARRL EmComm Level 1 classes (first tested in Connecticut and then expanded and deployed nationally). They produced significant positive results in the quality, scope and skill of ARES activities."
A similar course, PR-101, is now being developed by the ARRL. "This course is geared toward PIOs and others interested in Public Relations," Pitts said. "While voluntary, the course will be 'strongly encouraged' for all ARRL PIOs and available for others."
Overall goals for the course are:
To clarify the role of the PIO in the Field Organization.
To establish a base set of expectations (job description) for a PIO to fulfill, and peer pressure to do the job well.
To establish, teach and verify that course graduates have the common basic skill set needed to accomplish expectations set forth in the PIO job description.
To create a pool of trained PIOs who can be confidently called upon to represent Amateur Radio in their region during breaking news events.
To create a spirit of pride in being a trained and active PIO.
To increase the prductivity of PIOs and resultant positive media coverage.
"There is a critical need to offer public relations training that addresses the 21st century media landscape," said ARRL Public Relations Committee Chairman Bill Morine, N2COP. "Since the last revision of the ARRL PIO Handbook in the mid 1990s, domination of coverage has shifted from newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations to cable, satellite and Internet media outlets. The decentralization of media means there are many more ways and formats from which the public can access information. The PR-101 course will point ARRL PIOs in the direction where they can best take advantage of opportunities in both traditional and emerging media."
Saying that the League is fortunate to have a dedicated corps of more than 450 appointed PIOs in the field, Morine pointed out the results of a survey sent to all PIOs: "The December 2008 survey showed that the majority of PIOs are either self-appointed or were appointed by their local club. This confirms that many PIOs are highly motivated and eagerly want to tell the public about Amateur Radio. At the same time, the survey revealed that most PIOs have little or no formal training or experience in public relations, journalism or the media in general. The overwhelming number of respondents told the survey they would gladly participate in public relations and media training from ARRL."
Morine said he is glad to see that more and more Section Managers are already endorsing PR-101 for their PICs and PIOs. "The goal of the Public Relations Committee is to raise the professionalism of our field PIOs, just as the ARECC courses have elevated the training of ARES operators," he said.
PR-101 is expected to be first shown to the public in May at the ARRL EXPO at the Dayton Hamvention.