Public information officers unite in Panama City Beach for a FEMA training course

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Local PIO’s attend training course at Bay Point Sheraton in Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Public information officers have a mission. That mission is getting the right information out to the right people at the right time.

“Obviously with COVID, there’s been a lack of in-person training and there’s never been a greater need for this public information training than now,” said Mike Jachles, Chair of the Florida Association of Public Information Officers.

About 20 people from across Florida, including local PIO’s, hoping to strengthen their skills participated in the two-day FEMA class.

“This is basically a curriculum that takes public information officers, or communicators, and gives them the foundation that they need to effectively do their job,” said Jachles.

Some of the public information officers had been in their jobs for a while, while others like Vershurn Ford recently started.

“I’m kind of the guy that’s typically always in the background, so a lot of time you don’t understand quite the nuances of working directly in front of the camera,” said Ford, Mount Dora PIO.

In one of the exercises, the group was split into two and each given a different news release.

After taking a few minutes to study the information, they were put in front of a camera as if they were speaking to the public.

“I’ve learned a lot of different ways to kind of engage with reporters to create a great media relationship,” said Ford.

After being asked hard-hitting questions in both English and Spanish, everyone had learned what to do and what not to do.

“I think my biggest takeaway is that public information is kind of this forever-growing field. There’s tons of resources available. You just have to know who to reach out to,” said Ford.

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