With the competitive nature of journalism and PR careers, it’s always a good idea to specialize. One often overlooked career that’s worth looking into, is a Public Information Officer. Public Information Officers, or PIOs, essentially serve as PR people for non-profits, or other government organizations. As a non-profit or government employee, PIOs receive great benefits, a competitive salary, and a steady position. PIOs also get to serve the same exciting functions as PR, interacting with the press, and crafting PR statements. So for those interested in a career in PR or journalism, but concerned about benefits and steady pay, consider becoming a PIO.
In order to pursue a career as a PIO, one must have the right credentials, educational and otherwise. The main difference between a normal PR job and a PIO, is that PIOs don’t have to do nearly as much marketing. When you work for the Fire Department, or the DSHS, marketing is just not necessary. Experience that’s vital for PIOs, is the ability to craft great press releases, and experience interacting with the media, among other things. Former journalists commonly become PIOs.
As far as education goes, there are many ways you can go. Studying the basics of PR and journalism are a safe bet. Instead of studying marketing however, specializing in government or non-profit studies is a good idea. If you’re interested in being a PIO for a large government agency, it’s imperative you take emergency preparedness studies. PIOs are responsible for speaking to the press on behalf of their given agency in times of crisis. Depending on what type of entity you’d prefer to be a PIO for, you can specialize your degree in many ways.
The salary of a PIO can be very lucrative. Particularly for those who are used to chasing freelance journalism gigs to survive. The average PIO salary is around $52,000 annually. It’s often more than that when you consider the ample benefits most non-profit and government organizations provide. While that may not be as much as some famous journalists, it’s a good salary, and a much more stable position than most journalists have.
The current job-market is competitive for all fields, but particularly journalism. PR is a better bet, but one thing a position as a PIO offers that PR doesn’t, is piece of mind. Being a PIO for an organization you believe does good work, offers intrinsic motivation that most PR positions lack. Seeing as many people who pursue journalism do so because of a strong ethical code and a quest for the truth, a PIO is a great middle ground. So if you’re on the fence about which avenue of journalism or PR to break into, consider being a PIO. A position as PIO offers the excitement and fulfillment of journalism, with the stability and security it lacks.