HAM Radio 101

Public Information Officers in Amateur Radio

A Public Information Officer (PIO) is responsible for creating and growing a positive public image for an organization. These officers may perform a wide range of public relations management tasks such as preparing speeches, holding press conferences, and making public appearances.

Amateur radio organizations often have PIOs or people who perform some of the same tasks. Here are some PIO responsibilities per the American Radio Relay League (ARRL):


  • Establishes and maintains a list of media contacts in the local area; strives to establish and maintain personal contacts with appropriate representatives of those media (e.g., editors, news directors, science reporters, etc.). Understands how stories should be submitted to media outlets and knows the rules for successful media submissions by media type.
  • Be a contact for the local media and assures that editors/reporters who need information about Amateur Radio know where to find it.
  • Keeps informed of activities by local hams and identifies and publicizes those that are newsworthy or carry human interest appeal. (This is usually done through news releases or suggestions for interviews or feature stories.)
  • Attempts to deal with and minimize any negative publicity about Amateur Radio and to correct any negative stories which are incorrectly ascribed to Amateur Radio operators.
  • Generates advance publicity through the local media of scheduled activities of interest to the general public, including licensing classes, hamfests, club meetings, and Field Day operations.
  • Helps individual hams and radio clubs develop and promote good ideas for community projects and special events to display Amateur Radio to the public in a positive light.
  • Keeps current and familiar with available materials including ARRL Public Service Announcements (PSAs); knows appropriate websites and social media to post viral media, brochures and audiovisual materials; contacts local radio and TV stations to arrange airing of Amateur Radio PSAs; secures appropriate brochures and audiovisual materials for use in conjunction with planned activities.

Working with Others

  • Works with local government liaisons to establish personal contacts with local government officials where possible and explain to them, briefly and non-technically, about Amateur Radio and how it can help their communities.
  • Works with the section Public Information Coordinator (PIC) to identify and publicize League-related stories of local news interest, including election and appointment of local hams to leadership positions, QST articles by local authors, or local achievements by amateurs.
  • Assists the section PIC in recruiting hams for public speaking engagements and promotes interest among community and service organizations in finding out more about Amateur Radio.
  • Quickly informs the ARRL Media and PR Manager of any issue or significant event noted which may either enhance or damage the reputation of the ARRL.

Work During Emergencies

  • Is familiar with local emergency protocols and establishes relations with the lead governmental response agency in their home area and their requirements for the PIO’s participation in a Joint Information Center in an emergency.
  • Helps local clubs and/or section designated ARES-PIOs (PIOs who are specifically trained and tasked by the SM and/or PIC to work with ARES units) prepare emergency response media plans.
  • Provides aid to section appointed ARES-PIOs or assumes that role if none is available.
  • Working with the PIC, aids clubs and others involved in emergency response operations in the preparation and contents of PR kits containing vetted information about Amateur Radio in their local area which may be distributed in advance to local Emergency Coordinators for use in dealing with the media during emergencies.
  • Summarizes Amateur Radio activity in an ongoing situation and follow up any significant emergency communications activities with accurate and prompt reporting to the media of the extent and nature of Amateur Radio involvement.   They should NOT speak or give information for our served agencies.
  • Takes free online FEMA courses in the National Incident Management Structure/ICS/Disaster PIO or seeks similar training from the state emergency management office.

PIOs are usually chosen from club publicity chairs and must be full ARRL members. It is highly recommended to have completed the ARRL’s PR-101 course. You can find and register for the free course here.

There is an official application form for the PIO position. It resides with several other station appointments in the document FSD-187. You can find the Application for Station Appointment listed on the Ohio ARES website or send in digital form on ARRL.

You can check the following ARRL website for your county’s and/or district’s PIO listing(s): http://www.arrl.org/field-appointments. Set “Section:” to your section and set “Appointment:” to Public Information Officer.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at KE8FMJ@gmail.com.

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