Some of the most innovative communications in the public sector is coming from a sector faced with huge change. The annual FirePRO event in Birmingham saw plenty to talk about on day one.
by James Morton
Day one at this year’s FirePRO Conference – for fire service comms folk – has seen subjects and discussion ranging from Christmas numbers ones to Donald Trump.
Here’s the top 10 take-homes from day one…
1. When it comes to rebuilding your culture and trust with staff, as Essex had to do after a scathing report labelling their culture as "toxic and corrosive", your people have to come first. Move away from command and control to greater engagement at every level.
2. The inclusion agenda is just going to become bigger and bigger for fire services in the years ahead and comms has an absolutely pivotal role to play in defining the way ahead, as Cheshire are showing
3. Have total belief in your campaign and you will convince everyone around you it can be done, as the team behind the NHS staff reaching Christmas number one did
4. The public can be your best spokespeople, so use them, as Devon & Somerset did by sharing the wave of thanks and goodwill messages following the recent Clarence hotel fire
5. Social media is great – but little use in a power cut, as Lancashire communities found during the floods last Christmas. Sometimes you simply have to resort to old school channels – boots on the ground.
6. An oldie but a goodie – define your audience and know who you’re trying to reach, as South Wales did with would-be young arsonists during their award-winning grass fires campaign
7. There’s always welfare support for operational staff during tragic incidents – but don’t forget about the welfare of the comms teams involved. West Midlands comms officers received the same support as their fire crews following the fatal wall collapse at a Birmingham recycling tip in July.
8. Make sure you have all bases covered when it comes to digital channels during disasters – a misplaced tweet or picture from the incident ground or scene could spell trouble later
9. In a new post truth, post PR world communicators needs to harness the power of community and networks to create social movements for truly effective results
10. Trust exists in the frontline of public services, but not in its leaders – they need to stop thinking about controlling message and embrace the chaos.