CONFERENCE NOTES: What I learned from #firePRO21

It was #firePRO21 last week, the coming together of fire and rescue communications.

For the first time for 20-months I caught a train and headed to a room where 50-people were in the same room. Weird.

Some reflections here on the two days in Birmingham.

Do the right thing

Whatever your organisation does, there’s a purpose to it. Strip everything away, the purpoise of the RNLI since 1824 is to rescue people in peril at sea regardless of how they got there.

In summer 2020, right wing commentators attacked them for their role in saving the lives of refugees who got into difficulty in the English Channel.

They could have buckled under the political pressure but their sense of direction came from the moral compass that pointed them to do the right thing.

In this case, doing the right thing was pushing back at the critics while staying true to the idea that they were rescuing people at sea.

They were not refugees or migrants. They were people.

Their video illustrated this but the comms team and the senior leadership team, made sure those doing the rescuing were fine with the edit.

We do well to remember this lesson.

Human comms

At the session, I spoke about human comms. For the last few years I’ve blogged examples where the human voice shines through. That is a voice we recognise when we see it.

There is a lesson in everything we do to put human beings at the centre of our communications.

Researching the presentation I was reminded that the idea of the human voice on the web pr-dates what we imagine as conventional social media.

It is an idea that runs through the Cluetrain Manifesto. This revolutionary document was put together on an internet discussion forum that tried to imagine what web 2.0 would look like.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

The Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999

Every organisation should have a dog

Ironically, one of the most human things at #FirePRO21 wasn’t human but a dog.

Digby the dog became an internet sensation when Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue posted the news story of how their dog helped bring to safety a woman threatening to jump.

Digby is a ‘defuser dog’. In other words, he gets called in when crews return from a particularly stressful job. He defuses the stress. How? Because he’s lovable, friendly and loves people. All of a sudden the stress of the situation is replaced by this lolloping animal.

Paul Compton and Rosalie Fairbairn spoke of the ethical questions they encountered. It’s a great story, but what about the woman? What of the duty of care?

The Samaritans have guidelines for reporting on suicide which they looked to follow.

It made me think that every organisation should have a mascot.

Every organisation should have good internal comms

The theory of internal comms is clear. If you keep your staff informed they’re more likely to deliver.

The 10 hospitals across Northumbria Healthcare NHS is a good match for a fire and rescue service with multiple stations and local loyalties.

A 92 per cent open rate for the key internal bulletins shows the value of filtering out the must know from the nice-to-know.

And some others

Creativity is key.

TikTok is a thing.

People are not robots and they need to recover from crisis moments.

Decent engagement takes time and doesn’t turn on like a tap.

Well done to the FirePRO organising committee. Well done speakers Mark Hadingham, Louise Knox, Ross Wigham, Amanda Coleman, Helen Reynolds, Mandy Pearse Claire Mason and James Morton.

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