Getting Organized: The 3 Documents Every PIO Needs to Manage Work and Stay Sane

By Tanya Castaneda, APR 
Vice President, Public Relations, Manolatos Nelson Murphy, Inc.
2018 CAPIO Communicator of the Year

As the Public Information Officer for a large government agency, I touched hundreds of pieces of content per week, from web copy and speaking points to video scripts and social media plans. In one year alone, my team issued 125 press releases. At the same time, I was also responsible for strategic planning, managing a team and leading dozens of projects, from developing a crisis communications strategy to implementing an annual tour program.

It takes strong management skills to handle a workload like this and in my current position on the consulting side, I mentor and advise PIOs on how to manage their time and resources to achieve great results for their organizations. Having earned my Accreditation in Public Relations, I benefitted from learning the difference between being a public relations technician, who focuses mainly on content production and media relations; and a public relations manager, who focuses on strategic planning. My job as a PIO spanned both roles. According to Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, 11th Edition, in a study of 321 organizations, “the major predictor of public relations excellence was the extent to which the organization’s top public relations executive was able to enact the manager role versus the technician role.”

As a PIO manager, I relied on three tracking documents that were absolutely essential to keeping me organized, and my team sane, in our daily work:

  1. Content Deliverables List
  2. Media Inquiry Log
  3. Awards List

If you create these three documents and keep them readily available, you will reap great rewards – not only for your career, but for your sanity. 

Content Deliverables List

These days, PIOs have so many content demands that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Our teams and contractors are writing and editing news releases, all-employee emails, stakeholder e-blasts, social media posts, speaking points and so much more. That’s why I recommend creating a simple Content Deliverables List to ensure that assignments don’t fall through the cracks. This list should be in your computer, not on a legal pad or on your whiteboard. I used Microsoft Excel, noting who was responsible for the content so that I could follow up if needed.

Here are some assignments you might include on your Content Deliverables List:

  • Introduction for Annual Report
  • All-employee email about Open Enrollment 
  • Key messaging for new conservation program
  • News release on Board action to approve policy change
  • E-blast to stakeholders about deadline to apply for event sponsorship

When your team completes a piece of content, don’t delete it from the list. You want to be able to look back at what your team accomplished, so make sure to add a “Completed” tab. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as you see the list getting longer. Trust me, it’s way better than crossing them off a legal pad with a pen. 

Media Inquiry Log

I’m always surprised when PIOs can’t tell me how many media inquiries they receive in a year because this is a key metric of my team’s performance. In my PIO role, I used a simple Excel spreadsheet where my team and I recorded the date, the reporter’s name, contact information, the subject of the inquiry and whether it was fulfilled. We updated this document daily. 

The Media Inquiry Log provides accountability so that you always know in real time what reporters are asking, who is handling what inquiry, and which media inquiries are still outstanding. It’s an early warning system to see if a request is taking an unusually long time. For reporters, there is nothing more frustrating than feeling like an agency is not making their question a priority, and you may need to intervene and learn what the issue is.  

There’s another reason to track media inquiries: workload. In my PIO position, I successfully used this data to obtain additional staff resources. For example, I was able to show that in a two-year period, media inquiries grew from about 602 per year to 794. That’s a 33% increase, resulting in a heavier workload for staff and decreased customer service as requests take longer to process. 

Awards List

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to keep a list of all the awards won by your government agency. Each award is a piece of valuable third-party validation that helps show the public that your government agency is doing a good job. Thus, having all the awards in one place as a reference is essential. Also, if you don’t do it, who will? You’ll find this comes in handy for annual reports, the budget message, and speaking points.

I recommend keeping this in a Microsoft Word document and updated it about twice a month. You can record entries like this, with the year, the title of the award, the project honored, and the organization issuing the award:

  • 2018 Award of Excellence – Community Education/Outreach (Port Master Plan Update), American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)
  • 2018 Project of the Year (National City Marine Terminal Berth Rehabilitation), American Public Works Association

In some large organizations, each department applies for and receives its own awards. You may be copied on emails in which someone is congratulated for an award. Make sure to immediately make a note of it on the list. It adds up quickly! 

Where to Keep These Files

Since many PIOs are part of a team, it makes sense to manage these three documents in a shared folder. This could be in your organization’s enterprise system, in Google Docs, or in Dropbox. Whatever system you choose, make sure it’s a place that you can easily access. Given the real possibility of system issues, you might want to also save it to a portable flash drive or print them out once per week. 

I hope this list is helpful to PIOs in this demanding profession. Please let me know your own tips for getting organized, and feel free to reach out with additional questions!


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