PIOs told not to say “No Comment”

A recent media training for designated Provincial Information Officers of the Department of Trade and Industry-CAR City became an eye opener to most of the participants including the agency’s management committee, other agency PIOs, representatives of the local chamber of commerce and the Regional Development Council.

The training which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mandaluyong was a much needed skills upgrading activity for government PIOs so that they can package technical reports into messages the way journalists deliver to wide audiences. DTI Regional Director Myrna Pablo during her keynote address implied that apart from public and private sector partnership, government officials and PIOs can also be trained to be good spokespersons. With DTI’s regional and provincial PIOs serving as receiving officers under the Freedom of Information Act, they are also encouraged to access other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in promoting agency programs.

One of the resource speakers, Precious Leano of the European Union-Trade Related Technical Assistance Project laid down the basics of Communications 101 emphasizing message flow from sender down to the receiver taking into consideration the feedback as an important component of the process.

Explaining the communication process through a media landscape chart, Leano stressed that government informants must consider different approaches depending on geographic, sectors, age range and even income categories. A careful study on stakeholder’s profile can also help PIOs determine the most efficient and effective way to reach target audiences whether print, radio, television or the new media.

Jeah La Guardia of the Go Negosyo program presented a case study on their Kapatid Mentor Me promotional strategies and multiple approaches such as summits, forum/workshops, media and books. She said that being present in all these media platform does not necessarily mean, your message is getting across to your audience. Being in all these doesn’t mean you are getting attention from your target audience and your message is being grasped. La Guardia added that their marketing and communications are aligned with entrepreneurship and everything that they can build from it and therefore every collateral and marketing effort should talk about it.

Recent PR survey according to her reveals that traditional media is still relevant because it’s a trusted source. We may be in a smart-phone generation but those who really want to know things will still get information from the newspaper, TV, and radio La Guardia added.

Tasked to discuss what it takes to be a spokesperson, Katherine G. Fernández, USAID-TRADE’s communications advisor said that the person in position represents the organization, conducts and manages briefings, builds and nurtures relationships with media and stakeholders and serve as credible source of timely and accurate information. If there’s one thing notable to what she said, it’s the general description that a spokesperson must speak with authority, conviction and knowledge. Further, there is also no such thing as “No Comment” because everything that comes from the mouth of a spokesperson can be divulged by media. A spokesperson must also speak with authority, conviction and knowledge Fernandez stressed.

Since the expected output of the training is to review DTI’s communication process and enable designated spokespersons or information officers based in the provinces to effectively convey helpful messages, the PIOs were then tasked to formulate a regional and provincial communication plan that is implementable within a given time frame./Art Tibaldo#