Some of the most innovative comms work in the UK today is from fire and rescue people. It's true. It's also a sector that is undergoing radical change. But as change takes shape fire comms are determined to run towards it.
by Leanne Ehren
“THE fire service doesn’t need PR!” – A statement many fire and rescue service communication professionals may find themselves hearing from outside the 999 community. We would beg to differ.
The expanding remit of fire as a health asset, collaboration with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), and a constant battle to change the stereotype of what our frontline does are just some of the daily challenges PR teams up and down the country face, working in the fire sector.
Purses are pinching across the public sector, teams are shrinking, yet the workload is getting bigger as change management drives a need for more comms than ever before, and an increase in two-way communication with stakeholders on social media mean our specialist skills are in demand.
What some people in the wider communications sector may not realise is just how vast the remit of communications is in the fire service – and just how many “teams” are operating with just one or two tactical key players. This is why support from the wider fire and rescue service community is just so valuable and how we think our national group FirePRO is leading the way to make our teams more effective by sharing ideas, resources and in some cases, people.
Let’s just take a look at some of the challenges fire and rescue service comms teams are facing right now (and let’s also bear in mind, this is the strategic level stuff, on top of the tactical, day-to-day tasks of media handling, training, internal communications, managing social, creating awesome video… the list goes on).
- · The spotlight has been put on fire services by the (then) Home Secretary’s reform speech about changing workforce culture. Comms needed to influence and deliver? TICK.
- · Another area of scrutiny is improving the diversity of our workforces to make sure they properly reflect the communities they serve. Comms needed to develop creative campaigns and engage internal audiences? TICK.
- · The recently published Adrian Thomas Review has very clearly stated more needs to be done to make the public aware of the broad range of work the modern fire and rescue service delivers. Comms needed to deliver this key message? TICK.
Things are changing, devolution is around the corner – Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service will be the first in the country to fall under the Mayor – and services are merging, alongside firefighters now putting up handrails and changing lightbulbs in the homes of the vulnerable.
But amidst the back drop of uncertainty, one thing is for sure, the importance of properly planned and measured strategic communication delivered by specialists has never been more important.
That is why this year, the FirePRO Conference, held every November exclusively for fire and rescue communication professionals, has got record attendees. Laid on at a not-for-profit cost for our members, it promises a jam-packed agenda tailored specifically to the sector that will inspire, teach and invigorate comms professionals to go back to their place of work and deliver more amazing comms.
Follow #FirePRO on November 22 and 23 to see what conversations are happening at the annual conference.
Leanne Ehren is Communications Manager at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and also sits on the national FirePRO committee.
Picture credit: Library of Virginia / Flickr