Fire PRO

From the committee

A word from the FirePro Committee Chair

Satisfaction is an interesting concept. Mick Jagger can’t get any. The rapper Ludacris aims to make people satisfied, even if it kills him (a high risk strategy, which I don’t suggest we adopt). And the police (the actual police, not the band) find that 61% of people are satisfied with them. Not a bad score, but certainly not backslapping territory.

FirePro Chair Paul Compton 

And yet for ourselves in the fire and rescue sector, satisfaction comes very easily, with HMICFRS’s Public Perceptions of Fire and Rescue Services research finding that 73% of people are satisfied with the sector and 90% feel confident that we’re providing an effective service. This is despite most people never needing to call upon our services.


Great, happy days, let’s pour a cup of tea, sit back and bask in the glow of always being the heroes. And yes, we should be proud that we’re keeping public confidence in us high, but we shouldn’t feel too comfortable. We know that globally trust in institutions is waning – highlighted in the latest Edelman Trust Barometer – and that wholesale change is needed in the sector – as highlighted in the recent State of Fire and Rescue Services report.

This is where open, honest and transparent communications is needed. Because when we try to change what people are already comfortable with, we will see a backlash. Ask yourself: how often are you honest with the public about the challenges your service faces? Or do you just show the heroic acts and the shiny kit and gloss over the poor availability, the lack of diversity, and the struggle to recruit and maintain on call crews (the survey also showed people have a low understanding of the how their local station is staffed)? The latter may be uncomfortable, but it is this honesty that will build trust and keep people satisfied in our services when change happens.

Probably the most honest campaign in the world
CASE STUDY: Carlsberg's honest campaign

With the State of Fire report, HMICFRS has set the tone for early discussions in 2020, but for FirePRO our focus this year on standards and development. This follows on from last year, when set about reorganising the National Committee, launching our constitution and focusing on delivering another successful conference in November.


We’re working with the Fire Standards Board, HMICFRS and our colleagues at the Government Communications Service to set a professional standard for the sector. This will provide an understanding of what is needed to have a successful communications function within a service and set out steps for services to achieve the standards.


We will also plan a development programme for the year to give you access to high quality training and development. This will be focused on some of the areas you identified in last year’s sector-wide survey, but if there’s anything you feel you need training or development on, please let us know


We know during these times of austerity, which is still very much pinching the sector, training budgets are often the first thing to be sacrificed. This is why the development programme will be affordable and accessible across the country.


It will then be rounded off with the annual conference in November. Which we are proud to say is still the best value conference in the public sector.

Details of all of these will be released very soon.


In the meantime, want to hear about all the great work you are doing, so if you have a campaign or piece of work you are proud of, share it with us


Paul Compton

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

Case studies

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Black History Month exhibition - Comms case study

In October last year South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue launched what we believe was the first ever fire service Black History Month exhibition. It featured portraits of 11 members of staff with BME backgrounds - including our first ever black firefighter.


What was the situation, problem or opportunity?

The problem we face is that, much like most other fire and rescue services, black and minority ethnic people continue to be massively underrepresented within our organisation. Black History Month gave us an opportunity to start and try to change that. Of course we were under no illusion that we could fix everything in a month, but we had to start somewhere.

SYFRS Black History Month Exhibition

What did you do?

We worked with our BME staff group to get 11 members of staff, past and present, together who were willing to be photographed. We knew that one of our finance team did portrait photography in his spare time so we reached out and asked for his support - he gladly obliged and was allowed to do this within his working hours.

We organised for the photos to be taken, got them printed onto big boards and arranged for them to be exhibited, on easels, at popular locations throughout Sheffield - the train station being one really good example.

We also arranged a launch event where we unveiled the photos. Everyone who featured in the exhibition was invited, as was the local media, our fire authority and various other members of staff.


What, if anything, didn’t work?

This was a rare occasion where pretty much everything went to plan. The biggest challenge for us was that that we had to squeeze everything into three weeks. There was a benefit to this - in that it kept us focused - but should anything big have come in during that period the whole thing could have got derailed. It's worth noting here, though, that generally we plan our work quite far in advance - the last minute element of this project came down to the idea being a very valuable added extra.


What did work?

We wanted to do something different and get people's attention and that certainly worked.

In terms of specifics, though, working with the BME staff group to get people's buy in was a big thing. Without the staff group chair being on board (we met with him before we did anything else and pestered him most days afterwards) there's no way we'd have got so many people involved.

Working together as a team worked, too. This sounds obvious but all four of us played a part. We had clearly defined roles and worked to those roles - rather than letting just one person carry the can. We discussed progress, briefly, every day and were swift in our decision making - we wouldn't have been able to do it in three weeks if we were debating every small decision at great length. There was no hierarchy.


How did you measure success or failure?

We had great feedback from our staff, the media coverage was super positive and we had great feedback from the people who saw the exhibition on their travels. A group from the Home Office travelled up from London to see it, too.

Perhaps more important than that, though, is that it helped solidify our relationship with our BME staff group and it showed people across the organisation, particularly those at the top, what our team is capable of - especially as we pulled it together in three weeks.

And even more important than all of that were the actual results. A few pats on the back are nice but that isn't really what we're after. That's why we put a clear objective in at the start - to dramatically increase the amount of BME people registering their interest in careers with us (via our website) as a result of the exhibition.

This meant including a clear call to action in all of the communication we put out - pushing people towards the job section on our website.

In the end we saw an 88 percent increase in registrations of interest during October, compared to an average month. Other measures include:

  • An estimated 485,000 people saw the physical exhibition whilst it was on the road
  • News of the exhibition reached around 783,000 people through traditional media
  • We reached approximately 200,000 people through our own channels


What comms tools did you use?

The main thing was the physical exhibition - photos and easels hosted at popular locations across Sheffield. We used the traditional media to spread the word and a launch event to kick things off. We used Facebook to push out the job registration link and also produced a booklet that gave information about each of the people featured. Finally we had a video produced that explained everything we had done and why.

Probably the best case study in world (apart from SYFR's)

Have a read about his brave campaign by Carlsberg. Honesty the best policy?

Read the full case study

Hints, tips and help

Don’t look back in anger - why you need to bring OASIS to the table

Last summer the new-look FirePRO Committee launched a sector-wide survey to understand, amongst many other things, what people wanted to improve on. 

As a group we exist to support fire service communicators – we can’t do that without knowing what everyone’s challenges and priorities are. That’s why it was vital we included a question in the survey that asked what teams would like to do better.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we got a wide range of answers. There was one key theme, though, that seemed to crop up in pretty much every response…


The struggle to find time to think creatively and deliver well-planned work – thanks to huge workloads and an endless supply of urgent and reactive tasks – is clearly very real.

That too is perhaps unsurprising and, whilst I’m sure isn’t just limited to fire and rescue services, the survey findings were corroborated by attendees at our conference in November. People have everything they need to deliver but can’t, not for lack of trying, get off the hamster wheel.

So how do we solve the problem?

Saying no to unnecessary and impromptu work might be the first part of the solution, but that’s not everything, and it’s not always that simple – particularly in hierarchical organisations.

My fellow committee member Pete has also written, in his newsletter, about streamlining some of his team’s processes. That forms another part of the solution.

But I think if we truly want to crack the issue we need to take the advice of Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication, and bring OASIS to the table.

He’s not talking about the band – but about the campaigns planning model that suggests all campaigns, and indeed wider communication work, should take a step by step approach and work through five key stages:

  • Objective
  • Audience Insight
  • Strategy
  • Implementation
  • Scoring & Evaluation.

Following this model doesn’t have to be onerous or time-consuming. In South Yorkshire we work through it in around an hour. It’s simple and it can be applied to pretty much everything we do as communicators.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is that it’s hard to argue with. There’s no need to say no to a poster request, prompting a civil war in the process, when you can measure it up against the OASIS model instead.

So rather than refusing that random leaflet request, or just doing it anyway to save hassle, bring OASIS to the table. Who are we giving the leaflet to? What do we know about that audience – would they pay attention to a leaflet? And, whilst we’re at it, what’s the objective?

And if colleagues from other departments can’t answer those questions, that’s fine. It’s our job to help them and we owe it to ourselves, our teams and the public to do just that.  

Jack Grasby – SYFR Campaigns Manager & FirePRO Vice-Chair

What a tool - Trello

My team look after a wide range of work. We get roped into everything from intranet redesigns, to email marketing strategies, to video production and social media campaigns. There are a lot of moving parts. Sound familiar? 

The stress of keeping track 

None of us are superhuman (well, maybe a couple of you), so remembering all the details, updates, deadlines and schedules can feel impossible - sometimes just trying to keep track of everything that’s going on can double your stress levels before you even think about how your going to get any of it done (i’m hoping this doesn’t sound familiar, but I’m pretty sure it does).

My saviour

Early on in my career I started looking for tools to help manage the amount of info us comms professionals have to juggle; Note pads, post-it notes, dictaphones, memory palaces… Then one day I was introduced to Trello, and it has changed my life.

The ultimate to-do lists

Trello is basically a project management tool that lets you create the ultimate to-do lists. You can set up a Trello Board however it suits you or your team. In my team we use Trello Boards to track the progress of developments on our website, video production projects and collaborating on news content for our intranet etc. But most importantly we use Trello to list and track the progress of our individual work tasks.

Better memory 

For me personally this means as long as I add it to Trello it will get done. I can add as much detail as I like: images, documents and copy. And I can set reminders that come to me as an email, or a message on my phone. Trello has become my more reliable (searchable, taggable, shareable) memory.

This guy uses Trello in a similar way me for my day to day, and helpfully he’s made a video about it: 

Great for management 

As a manager, using Trello means I can dip into my team’s Trello boards to check progress of actions, add new actions or even add images or documents I think would be useful for their work. It also means if someone comes over needing an ‘urgent update for the [insert important name here] any of the team can give an update - obviously that never happens though...

You can assign items on a Trello Board to your team members, tag different actions as part of one project - so you can view the actions for only one project at a time, or all the actions for everything, add deadlines and much, much more. have written about how they use Trello here.

Not the only one

For me Trello takes away that nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something and gives me the ultimately satisfying feeling of moving a card from ‘to-do’ to ‘done’. But it’s not the only tool that can do this. gets pretty good reviews

Asana has been used by some big corporations for some time

Pete Richardson
Digital Communications Manager at London Fire Brigade

Ideas, everywhere: find all the creative inspiration you’ll ever need in two minutes

“It’s as true today as it always was - he who seeks beauty will find it.” Bill Cunningham, American photographer

Watch this video.

Uninspiring, huh? 

Watch again.

Any creative ideas in there? You sure?

What about those amazing tree outlines against the blue sky?

Using bus advertising for your marketing.

The soaring plane scrapping its trail in the sky (could be writing a campaign message?)

The simple use of icons and colours on the road signs to impart meaning.

The range of different fonts for the shops on the black sign – and what they all represent.

Vegan tuna. I mean, VEGAN TUNA.

It’s easy to believe this level of creative inspiration requires travel to far-flung rainforests or beaches, or six years in art school.

Nah. It’s right outside your front door. Literally.


So, the next time someone walks into your office and asks for your “comms inspiration/magic/stardust”, don’t sit and gnash your teeth, while muttering something about barely having enough time to sneeze.


Step out of the front door of your building and walk for two minutes.


And look. No, really look. And listen. And smell. Wake your senses up to everything around you and open up a world of ideas, everywhere. 


Treat yourself. Take a two-minute creativity tour.


Ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary


If it’s our job to be creative, then we need to be able to see things others don’t. Spot the difference. Connect the unconnected.


Someone drew the dots between flat-pack furniture and heavy grime. And ice cream and pensions. And Jason Donovan and chocolate.


And fire comms teams are similarly brilliant at taking inspiration from everywhere – songs, wildlife, films.


When we take the time to pay more attention to what we see (or hear, or smell) we can make extraordinary discoveries and connections. 


It’s often claimed that time is the biggest killer of creativity. Take an ideas, everywhere mindset and time becomes an irrelevance. You’ll be bombarded by inspiration 24/7.


That’s whether you’re stuck in traffic (“my fuel’s nearly in the red – that’s an interesting metaphor for a  push on mental health”), on the coffee run (“everyone takes their coffee/tea a different way - could tap into this for our recruitment campaign”) or just scrolling through your Insta feed (“black and white works really well for capturing emotion”).


No special equipment needed. No away days. No budget. Just you and your senses.


Creativity is right outside. Just take a longer look.


  • We’d love to see the results of your two-minute creativity tours. Hit us up @alivewithideas or #IdeasEverywhere with your inspiration or if you could just do with a bit of extra creativity in your corner.


FirePRO events

#FIREPRO19 – gone but not forgotten!

November seems like an age away, now, but hopefully the learning from last year’s FirePRO Conference is still being put into action by fire service communicators across the country!

We had over 50 attendees packed into Birmingham’s Impact Hub to learn from each other – as well as learn from the great set of speakers we had lined up.

The agenda was bigger than ever and included case studies and guest speakers from inside and outside the fire sector – covering everything from internal comms to pet-themed campaigns.

Planning has already begun for the 2020 event. Feedback from previous years, and our sector-wide survey, will be at the heart of it. See you all there!

But first, here’s 7 things we learned:

  1. Large-scale incidents can run on for weeks and you should consider that, and your team’s welfare, as soon as something kicks off - or people could start fainting
  2. The government’s OASIS model is the driving force behind some of the country’s most successful campaigns – and it can be applied to projects of all shapes and sizes

  3. Finding time to properly evaluate your work, and reporting back, is one of the best ways to reduce those pesky, time-draining low priority requests

  4. A lot of journalists still don’t get that we say firefighter, not fireman, and that we have done for years – there’s more work to do for us all  

  5. Around 80 percent of human thinking is instinctive rather than conscious – something to consider when trying to change behaviour and get people to take action

  6. Hearing what somebody says is different to really listening, and understanding, what they say – one for the internal communicators amongst us

  7. And finally - next time you go to a conference or event, where there’s a wellbeing walk on the agenda, take an umbrella!
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