Fire PRO

From the committee

Chair's Blog - lots of exciting things to share

FirePro Chair Paul Compton

It’s been a while since our last newsletter, which is testament to the scale of workloads as we’ve battled through the twists and turns of the pandemic.

Despite the challenges of the last 18 months, myself and the rest of the national committee have been determined to deliver on some key areas to support learning and development across the sector.  

Some of this you will have seen through the training programmes Dan Slee and Hel Reynolds carried out before last Christmas and the FirePRO Unconference, which took place in March. All of which gained positive feedback and we will be looking to do some similar activities in the new year.

Behind the scenes, we have been working on the communications and engagement standards for the sector. Having standards in place will be a major step forward for the sector. They will provide you with clarity about what to aim for and come with support to help you to keep improving your craft. They will also signal to leaders across the sector what they should be focusing on and adequately resourcing to achieve better outcomes.

We’ve been clear from that start of the project that these standards have to be realistic and scalable so that they support the varying sizes, needs and governance models of our Services. They need to help communications teams, not overwhelm or hinder. Over the summer, we have been testing the draft standards with a selection fire and rescue communicators, leaders of national communications bodies, and chief fire officers.

Through this early engagement, we have received overwhelming support for the standards and some great feedback to improve them further. Our next step is to consult wider across the sector. We really want to hear what you think of the standards and where we can improve them, so look out for the consultation activity when it’s launched in November. There will also be a consultation session the FirePRO Conference, so please do attend that if you are heading to Birmingham.

It is fantastic to be in a place where we can have a physical conference again. I certainly missed not having a full conference last year, particularly being able to meet with people from different services and find out what teams are working on, how people are tackling sector-specific issues, and to be able to share experiences, ideas and learning. Judging by how fast the tickets are flying off the shelf, I’m clearly not alone! If you haven’t bagged yours yet, get in there quick.

Another big development you will see very soon is support for setting up regional FirePRO networks. These used to be a key part of the FirePRO set up, but have fizzled out in recent years, although I know there is still strong relationships between neighbouring comms teams.

We now have two national committee members dedicated to supporting the setup of regional groups. Our plans are to work with you to build the network further and see where the national committee can help with regional and local initiatives that support our aims. More on this later in the newsletter.

Look out for future developments too with a revamped FirePRO website and better guidance and resources to support your work all on the horizon.

Hope you find the rest of the content of the newsletter useful. And I hope to see you on 24 and 25 November in Birmingham.

Paul Compton

Chair of FirePRO
Head of Communications and Engagement at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

Workstreams

Services invited to share images with the National Fire Chiefs Council

We've received the following request from the National Fire Chiefs Council... 

The NFCC is building its image library and needs your help!

We’re calling on you to share with us your brilliant images so that we can showcase them in our ongoing work. Credit where credit’s due, we’ll always credit your service anytime an image is used.

We’re particularly looking for images relating to the following areas:

  • People (group images of both non-operational and operational FRS staff)
  • Events (community specific events)
  • Fire safety advice (could include the testing of a smoke alarm, or a general home visit)
  • General fire safety (candles, cooking, escape planning)
  • Electrical safety
  • Firefighter training images
  • Control Room images
  • Vehicle images

If you can help us out, please share your images with Emily, at emily.chapman@nationalfirechiefs.org.uk (Please make sure you’ve got the relevant consent from those featured in your images!)

If you’ve got an image unrelated to those topics above but you still think it’s worth a share, please send it through.

Case studies

High praise for Helen Reynolds FirePRO training

A lot has happened since our last newsletter - one very exciting thing being some virtual training put on and subsidised by FirePRO for our members. We arranged two courses, one led by Helen Reynolds, one led by Dan Slee. Below, Rachael Stray, of Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service, gives her verdict on the Helen Reynolds sessions she attended. 

At a time when our usual education and community engagement work has been dramatically altered due to COVID, social media has been more important than ever for us to be able to communicate key safety messages to the public.

And when we really needed to reach more people our posts were falling flat, our engagement rate was in decline and I was worried.

Thankfully I saw a post in the NFCC workplace Facebook group advertising FirePro social media training with Comms Creative legend Helen Reynolds and I had approval to join.

I was practically giddy.

Having been an avid follower of Helen’s for years, this training sounded exactly what we needed to give us not only the knowledge of social media algorithms and how to try to beat them but also the confidence and creativity to try new things.

I returned to work following maternity leave in May and rather than going back to my desk in Service headquarters I found myself juggling looking after a baby and working at the kitchen table – not exactly the perfect conditions for harnessing creativity.

While working remotely certainly has its perks one of the drawbacks for me is not having those face to face conversations, those moments where you can sound ideas off one another and really get those creative juices flowing.

If anyone is going to give you a creative boost its Helen Reynolds so I put my faith into this training to turn things around.

The FirePro training was a mixture of live workshop style lessons and pre-recorded which worked really well; as I was not able to join every single session live due to bonfire related activity and covering other meetings.

However, I absolutely made the most of it and finally caught up with every session including the bonus ones after the Christmas break.

We covered how social media algorithms work, how to have great ideas, audience segmentation, what content works on each channel, cool apps for creating content, creative writing and Helen shared lots of real world examples of absolutely brilliant social media posts for inspiration.

She really made me think of ways we could shake up our social media content and have the confidence to try new things.

After starting to put the training into practice we have had some fantastic results.

On 1 December we shared a post on Facebook which showed the aftermath of a washing machine fire. We played on the fact that the family wouldn’t be spending Christmas at home and utilised the extra white space, emoji’s and list format that Helen had said would work well.

And it did. This post reached 154,883 people. It was not a boosted or ad post, this was organic traffic. The post had 40,739 engagements, 284 comments, 150 reactions and 699 shares.

Within the comments we actually saw behaviour change at work, in real time. People were tagging friends and family members saying have you seen this, you do this, stop this etc., and we saw lots of people admitting they regularly leave their washing machine/tumble dryer/dishwasher on either when they aren’t at home or overnight but having now realised how dangerous this is, they won’t in the future.

We have started to do serial content and have experimented with creating videos using Lumen5 to bring press releases and papers from meetings to life and the views have been encouraging.

I am now really thinking about our content, what we share and when and making sure that I have fresh images and videos – I am constantly trying to beat the algorithm and it’s actually made me feel more creative and hungry to try new things.

Our posts across all of our platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are continuing to reach more people, our engagement rates are much higher and interaction is on the up too.

I am also regularly explaining to departments why we need fresh content because without the buy in from prevention and education, fire safety, operations and others we won’t have that fresh content that we need to be able to craft those social media posts.

And I am pleased to report it is making a difference. I am getting that buy in, I am receiving videos and images and the performance action group reports are showing that the messages are having an impact on the number of incidents we are attending, so behaviour change is happening.

I am incredibly grateful that this training was provided and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any communications team to do it.

Hints, tips and help

Some links you might find useful

Looking for a bit of inspiration? Here's a few links you may enjoy... 

How about some learning resources on the world's most loved bad guy, Facebook? Tonnes of free courses and resources on how to target, even with a £20 budget...

https://www.facebook.com/business/learn

This lil beaut on Instagram's algorithm and how you can use it...

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-outlines-how-its-search-algorithms-work-and-how-you-can-optimize/

And maybe a little Canva help?

https://www.canva.com/learn/a-step-by-step-guide-to-designing-from-scratch/

FirePRO events

The FirePRO conference is back!

Two years since our last physical event, and after 18 challenging months for everyone, fire service communicators now have the chance to come together again to share learning (from inside and outside the sector), network and generally be inspired. 

Yes, that's right. As you will hopefully already be aware - the FirePRO conference is back! 

This year's event will be exclusively hosted at the four star Clayton Hotel in Birmingham on Wedesday 24th and Thursday 25th November

We know it's been a long time since we last saw each other, and attending a physical event may feel strange, but here's what we think this event has to offer you and your services: 

  • The (rare) opportunity to get out of the office and spend some time learning from others 
  • Endless tips, tricks and differing viewpoints from over 50 attendees from fire services across the country 
  • Another packed agenda featuring relevant case studies, best practice guidance and general inspiration 
  • By popular demand, a two-hour UnConference session where you can work with colleagues to talk over issues and solve problems 
  • The chance to network with other fire service communicators and develop working relationships that can last for years 
  • Two days of learning and development that can be taken back to your teams and services to improve all areas of work
  • Great value - yes that's right - for less than £300 you get all meals provided, an overnight stay and the two day conference - the best value conference in the public sector
  • Finally - this is the only conference nationally that is aimed purely at fire service communicators!

And if that doesn't tempt you, here's the line-up so far:

🔥 Justin Clark, a new age social expert, will be talking about how to TikTok, Reel and keep up with the cool kids
🔥 Dan Slee, who needs no introductions, will be giving a presentation on human comms
🔥 Alive With Ideas will be running a creativity workshop - something lots of you have asked for in recent years
🔥 Mark Hardingham, NFCC Chair, will be giving an insight into how you can get your voice heard at the 'top table'
🔥 Mandy Pearse, CIPR President, will be giving us a masterclass in stakeholder engagement
🔥 Claire Mason, from RNLI, will be giving us the inside scoop on their response to criticism from Nigel Farage
🔥 Paul Compton, our FirePRO Chair, will be sharing the tale of Digby the therapy dog, who saved a life and went viral
🔥 Jack Grasby will be giving an insight into how the team at SYFR develops, delivers and evaluates their campaign work

As well as the conference, you will be treated to a luxury overnight stay, a three course meal and the legendary FirePRO quiz - hosted by the equally as legendary Carol Longman. 

We are also delighted to reveal that this year's event will be sponsored by Alive With Ideas. Alive is a creative ideas agency that has links to the fire sector and a great track record for delivering creative work - which is exactly what you have told us you want to do more of. 

They will be running a creativity workshop as part of the agenda and will be on hand during both days of the conference for delegates to speak to. 

Please note - the early bird deadline for the cheaper ticket price is Friday 29 October - so get your tickets in quick! 

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