CBS3 reporter steps into new public safety communications role

Matt Petrillo will collaborate with Jennifer Griffin to develop safety communications at the university.

Petrillo will collaborate daily with Vice President for Public Safety Jennifer Griffin and the rest of DPS to develop safety communications for Temple’s stakeholders. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Matt Petrillo, a 2012 journalism alumnus and former CBS3 reporter, joined Temple’s Department of Public Safety on Aug. 28 as the new director of communications, a position the department had been planning to fill since the beginning of 2023.

“To be able to shed a lot of light on the positive work of the police here and Campus Safety, that’s really exciting to me,” Petrillo said. “You have the police officers, you have those working in the communication center, the dispatchers, the private security guards and everyone else. Just being able to effectively show what they do is what I’m looking forward to.”

Petrillo will collaborate daily with Vice President for Public Safety Jennifer Griffin and the rest of DPS to develop safety communications for Temple’s stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff and parents, Griffin said. He will also evaluate and measure how Temple community members engage with the department’s updates and promotions of certain initiatives.

“He’s completely ingrained himself already into the team and is already increasing our communications through social media, which is really important,” Griffin said.

While Griffin understands what good messaging and communication look like, she admits it is not her specialty to create social media-based messaging for the community.

Griffin and Petrillo also meet multiple times throughout the day to review any upcoming events or updates that the community needs to know about, like a K-9 Officer joining TUPD, or DPS giving away free steering wheel locks.

Strategic Marketing and Communications has benefited from Petrillo’s return to campus. A dedicated person handling messaging in DPS can be more connected to daily operations in the department, said Stephen Orbanek, director of communications on the Strategic Marketing and Communications team.

Griffin and Orbanek both pointed to an incident on Cecil. B Moore Avenue near Broad Street that occurred on Petrillo’s second day in the position. Police were called to the area in response to a report that someone had sustained a gunshot wound.

An arrest was made less than an hour after the initial report with help from the Code Blue Emergency Phones, which were updated with 360-degree cameras during the summer. Petrillo highlighted the technology in a message to the community, and the story was featured on 6ABC, Orbanek said.

“I’m not there every day, I’m not going to hear [about the Code Blue story] necessarily,” Orbanek said. “But Matt’s there, he’s able to say, ‘Hey, this might be a potential news story, let’s share this out.’ And that’s immensely valuable to get that story out there for so many stakeholders.”

Petrillo’s connection to Temple and background as a reporter in the Philadelphia media market made him an attractive candidate for the position, Griffin said. Last semester, Petrillo often reported on or near Temple’s Main Campus, covering crime and safety.

“[Director of Communications is] very similar to being a reporter because there are stories that should be shared, and it’s just my job really trying to find those stories, uncover them, and let the community know about the good police work that’s happening in Campus Safety,” Petrillo said.

Petrillo’s hiring is part of a larger effort to revamp DPS dating back to August 2022, when Griffin arrived at Temple. The department has had ongoing discussions about reorganizing the department to increase effectiveness and efficiency.

“One of the things that we wanted to do from the start was to increase our communications, our messaging and transparency,” Griffin said. “To do that effectively, we really need to have somebody who that’s all they do, so this was one of the first positions we created.”

When DPS originally posted the position and conducted interviews, the department found they weren’t getting candidates that filled their desired requirements, Griffin said. The department restructured and rewrote the position that emphasized the use of social media and relationships with news outlets.

Petrillo heard about the position when it was announced and was back-and-forth about applying, talking to a lot of people about the possibility of leaving broadcast news. Ultimately, his love for Temple brought him back.

Petrillo has spent his first weeks introducing himself to TUPD officers, asking what they think could be done to improve communication. In this brand-new position, he is looking forward to finding out the other responsibilities he may have. 

“This offers just a lot of opportunity to learn the other side, to learn new skills, to help Temple, which I have a love for, for everything it’s done for me,” Petrillo said. “It allowed me to really live out my dream and now I’m just living out another dream here.”

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