, ,

This weekend I spent some time doing some serious thinking. Deep thinking. Like Deeeeeeeep thinking.

Yes, this is deeeeeeeep thoughts with Katie Handey.

You know what’s a good idea to keep on your porch in the summer time? To keep mosquitoes away from you and your guests? A big bag of blood.

OK, ignoring the big bag of blood, let’s get back to the topic on hand. There was a question that was asked of me on Friday afternoon. “What do you like about being a PIO?” Like? How about LOVE!

So, with this question in my mind (What do you like about being a PIO), I set out for a hike to clear my mind and think about life changes and the answer to the question.

Incredible view from the top of Buckskin Mountain

Incredible view from the top of Buckskin Mountain

For those of you who don’t know, PIO stands for Public Information Officer. We are the spokespersons for our agencies, the stream of information to the media during an emergency and the clearinghouse of knowledge for the general public. Being a PIO, at least a good PIO, means taking facts or raw data, molding them around and presenting to your audience in a way that they can understand. If I say, “my agency has a 33% vaccination rate amongst school aged children,” do you even know what that means? But, if I say, “1/3 of all kids have been vaccinated by us, helping to stop the spread of (insert disease),” you have a better picture of what I am trying to say. I LOVE THAT! I love taking information that is confusing, or statically heavy and molding it in such a way that the audience can understand it and make a healthy choice because of it.

“Washing your hands can prevent the spread of flu.” OR

“You touch your face about 800 times during the day. Think about where you hands have been. Wash them often with soapy hot water.”

Which statement affected you more? They are both saying the same thing: hand washing is important and helps to prevent the spread of diseases. But, only one of those statements makes you really think about where your hands have been and gives specific action to take.

“Winter Storm Warning: Be Prepared.” OR

“It hasn’t been this cold in over 10 years. Visit (insert website) to learn how to be prepared.”

OK, so there isn’t much direct information in the second statement but at least there is action and a clear message that it’s going to be really cold. The website should have plenty of information available on how to prepare for the winter storm. The messages are clear and concise. The training I’ve taken through Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been incredible in message crafting.

Equally invaluable, a presentation by David Ropeik, Consultant in Risk Communication, opened my eyes and inspired me to be a better PIO by learning about the risk perception gap and how people measure risk. It’s too much detail to go into on this blog but if you have the chance, watch this video:  http://bigthink.com/users/davidropeik  In fact, I think I will watch it again. Right now…

I love the solitude of the mountain. Even with my 7yr old sun throwing rocks.

I love the solitude of the mountain. Even with my 7yr old sun throwing rocks.

K, I’m back. So, I feel as though I’m staring down Robert Frost’s wood once again. Making a decision on which path to take. The one well worn and trampled or the one less frequently traveled. And, the point of Frost’s poem is not to always take the road less traveled but to take the road that appeals to you the most. To make a choice that is right for you at that particular moment in time.

I feel like this is important and ties in with why I love being a PIO. It’s as though I see two career paths in the forest. One is well worn by others, there are set standards and guidelines of conduct and little creativity. The other is bumpy and exciting and sometimes a little dangerous with loads of creativity.

Which way?

Which way?

And before I make the choice of which path to go down, I needed to reflect on why I love being a PIO. Indulge me in a little more poetry… If I may, rewrite a poem by Emily Dickinson and not upset the literary gods…

If I can help one family in preparing,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can show one agency

How to be emergency trained

Or help one mother

To get her flu shot again,

I shall not live in vain.

I feel like I need to make the proper prostration to the literary giants now.

Back to point!

My path is the one that I love. The rocky, exciting, twisted path of a PIO. One lined with reporters and cameras and the worried public in an emergency. And I will carry my talking points and my books on the theories of risk perception gap. And I will be happy because I’m doing what I love.

It's the appeal of the unknown, right over that hill.

It’s the appeal of the unknown, right over that hill.

The next time you are staring down Robert Frost’s wood, take a few moments to reflect on what it is you love doing. Remember, it’s not the road less traveled that is so important, it’s taking the road that is pulling at your heart the strongest.