Public Information Officer Job Description

Who’s the face of many government agencies and large corporations? For the most part, that would be the public information officer, sometimes referred to as a public relations specialist. These professionals are essentially the communicators between an organization and the public. They use various media outlets to relay messages about their employer, including press releases and social media posts. Public information officers are often well-spoken, detail oriented, and outgoing. Working beyond the usual 40 hours per week is common for these individuals, especially when a specific incident or event dictates the need for public relations. Thus, it’s not unheard of for public information officers to work late nights or weekends. Despite the occasionally erratic work schedules and stressful environments, public information officers report high levels of job satisfaction.

 

Public Information Officer Duties and Responsibilities

While a public information officer’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Prepare Media Communications

The major role of a public information officer is writing and editing press releases, company brochures, public service announcements, speeches, articles, and social media posts. These materials can report on new product launches or company news, respond to inquiries, or make general announcements. Public information officers might also contribute to annual reports and company newsletters.

Develop Public Relations Procedures

Public information officers constantly review media sources and determine the best ways to announce news, handle crises, or release information. They design communication programs and strategies relating to media relations, maintain and update media databases, and coordinate special public relations events.

Maintain Media Relationships

It’s up to public information officers to form and maintain relationships with reporters and other media personnel. To this end, they attend community and media events, arrange interviews, respond to media requests, and speak at press conferences, civic events, and even schools. They also build relationships with community leaders, editors, educators, and legislators.

Assist with Marketing Efforts

Public information officers often work closely with marketing directors and advertising managers to create promotional materials and develop marketing strategies. They contribute to the development of marketing campaigns and assist with creating print and video materials.

 

Public Information Officer Skills and Qualifications

Successful public information officers are usually outgoing, speak easily to large groups, understand social media technologies, and can think and react quickly in crisis situations. Employers tend to look for candidates who demonstrate the following skills:

  • Computer skills – public information officers should be keenly aware of and understand various social media avenues and be proficient in Microsoft Office applications and desktop publishing software
  • Publication knowledge – familiarity with page layout, color selection, illustration, and even paper selection for brochures, newsletters, flyers, and other promotional materials is important for public information officers
  • Communication skills – speaking and writing are two skills public information officers employ on a daily basis
  • Organizational skills – from arranging promotional events to setting up news conferences, public information officers must consistently demonstrate strong organizational skills
  • Interpersonal skills – friendliness, openness, and approachability are qualities that help public information officers become successful
  • Self-motivation – public information officers should be self-starters who can address issues and complete assignments with little to no supervision
  • Multitasking – the ability to prioritize various projects and handle more than one project at a time is a must for public information officers

 

Public Information Officer Education and Training

A bachelor’s degree in communications, public relations, or journalism is typically required to begin a career as a public information officer. Some employers will request a portfolio of written work compiled in these degree programs. Contributions to a school newspaper or radio station, or time spent serving the community, can help job candidates stand out from other applicants. Knowledge of social media outlets is a plus.

 

Public Information Officer Salary and Outlook

The annual median salary for public information officers is just over $59,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. In the lowest 10th percentile, these professionals make nearly $33,000, while those at the top of the pay scale can realize a yearly median wage of more than $112,000.

The highest annual mean wages for public information officers tend to be seen in federal government agencies, public relations firms, and business organizations. If you wish to be among the highest paid in this field, the District of Columbia is the place to be: at nearly $103,000 per year, D.C. leads all U.S. states in terms of annual salary for this occupation. Virginia (about $79,000), California ($75,500), Rhode Island ($73,500), and New York ($72,000) round out the list.

A 9 percent employment growth rate for public information officers is projected by the BLS through 2026. It’s believed that most organizations will continue to emphasize public relations and company image. Due to the speed with which news spreads over the internet, the need for the public information officer’s PR expertise will remain high. The continued rise of social media also plays a part in this job growth projection.

 

Helpful Resources

Ready to experience an exciting and fast-paced career as a public information officer? Learn more about what to expect and how to grow in this role by accessing the links provided below:

Public Relations Society of America – the largest U.S.-based organization for communication professionals, PRSA offers professional development and learning opportunities, networking, certificate programs, and conferences

Public Information Officer – written by an award-winning public information officer working for the Department of Homeland Security, this book provides a thorough overview of this career, from effective public relations plans to community strategies

“The Hottest Communication Trends Public Information Officers Need to Know” – this blog post, presented by software solutions company CivicPlus, outlines many of the technologies and practices that are currently proving successful and effective for public information officers

“On Being a PIO in the Age of the Internet” – this interview with a public information officer gives you an inside look at what it’s like to fill this role, what’s rewarding about the position, what has most impacted the occupation in recent years, and how you might land work in this field

Cision Blog – Cision, a leading public relations company, runs a blog offering articles about media monitoring, effective content writing, news release strategies, using Google and Instagram for information releases, and other relevant topics for public information officers

Media Relations Handbook for Government, Associations, Nonprofits, and Elected Officials – designed as a guide for public information officers starting out in the field, this book provides practical advice about handling crisis communications, online communication strategies, developing an effective communication plan, and interview preparation techniques. You’ll also find chapters devoted to federal agency communications and congressional campaign operations

Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional – as a public information officer, you’ll spend a great deal of time involved with social media. This book offers an extensive look at social media technology and the strategies you can use to build more effective communications, react to crises, understand consumer perception, and much more

 

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