The Most Important Position in a Joint Information Center

"... just do the newsclips, Larry."

“… just do the news clips, Larry.”

Conventional response doctrine says that when staffing the Joint Information Center, the most qualified or experienced communicator in a unified response organization should fill the role of Public Information Officer – the 2nd most qualified fills the JIC Manager (or Assistant PIO) role and so on, so forth.

But in our experience, the JIC Manager is unequivocally the centerpiece of an effective public information response. It’s one of the reasons we started developing a workshop dedicated to the position this past fall; therefore, ergo, to wit, thusly, etc., we have always said the most seasoned, qualified, experienced, (insert your descriptive/superlative adjective here) communicator should be assigned to the JIC Manager position, not necessarily to the PIO role.

Let me explain further…

The overarching responsibilities of the JIC manager, in a nutshell (I’m partial to walnuts), are:

  • Assume the responsibilities of the PIO, as needed
  • Oversee all JIC operations
  • Oversee all JIC administration

Contained within these overarching responsibilities are the following tasks:

  • Organizing the JIC staff and workspace
  • Equipping the JIC staff and workplace
  • Assessing the skill sets of assigned staff and assigning positions accordingly
  • Establishing and maintaining the daily JIC schedule
  • Managing the flow of internal information among JIC and response staff
  • Maintaining the daily activity log and related paperwork
  • Train staff, coach staff, mentor staff

It’s also worth pointing out the above responsibilities are in addition to any requirement to assume responsibilities of the PIO, in part or as a whole.

In past posts we’ve discussed the ideal characteristics of a communicator filling this function. In order to further illustrate the uniqueness of an effective JIC Manager, we’ve compared those characteristics with those of an ideal PIO:


Note that both positions require experienced communicators, but the ideal JIC Manager is also an experienced responder – someone who has been in the trenches for real-world incident response operations.

Also notice the ideal JIC Manager has strong delegation skills whereas an ideal PIO should simply only be comfortable with delegation. In a unified response organization, the PIO spends the majority of his or her time in meetings and interfacing with other members of the command and general staff. The PIO isn’t typically around to do a lot of delegating so he or she needs to leave that to the JIC manager and be comfortable with it. In essence, the PIO need only delegate to the JIC Manager and let that person do the rest.

Finally, notice how diplomacy and relationship with the incident commander is not listed under the characteristics of an ideal JIC Manager. It’s great if he or she possess these traits but it’s not necessary. If the public information organization is running the way it should, the JIC Manager and response leadership will rarely need to talk shop with each other.

Can you think of other characteristics of an ideal JIC Manager (or PIO for that matter?) If so, let us know and maybe we’ll add it to our list.


Image from the British Library collection of rights-free images on Flickr. Image taken from, “”Humorous Poems … With a preface by A. Ainger, and … illustrations by C. E. Brock. L.P”, “Poetical Works. Smaller Collections.” Original:

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