Empower emergency service employees to take over social media for added authenticity

As budgets fall and the public demands truth, employee content can engage communities through the unique, trusted perspective of the people who do the job.

Empower front line staff to take over social media accounts, argues Sarah Roberts
Empower front line staff to take over social media accounts, argues Sarah Roberts

So far this year we've learnt that trust in government institutions, media, businesses and NGOs has plummeted to an all-time low.

Set against this backdrop, change is coming thick and fast in the public sector. Devolution, digital transformation and fire service reform are all on the horizon, and comms professionals, more than ever, need to think about how they are going to keep pace.

At a time when budgets are falling, leadership teams' expectations of what comms departments need to deliver have never been higher.

And what's clear is that it's not just about doing more with less; it's about being more impactful with what you've got.

It's up to communicators to get beneath the skin of what the change means for the future delivery of public services and determine who it's actually affecting. When it comes to the crunch, communicators must focus attention where it matters.

The Policing and Crime Bill will receive royal assent imminently, enabling Police and Crime Commissioners to take on the functions and duties of fire and rescue authorities.

While this is big news for fire, for the general public as long as blue light emergency services respond in their hour of the need - whether that's a firefighter extinguishing a fire or a paramedic responding to a cardiac arrest - people aren't concerned with changes in governance and scrutiny arrangements.

Internal communications, however, will be essential in the months to come, for both police and fire.

Front-line staff managing local social media accounts is on the rise as the value of loosening the reigns on comms channels and empowering employees is realised.

There's always a risk in having your people post content, although it's outweighed by engaging communities through the unique perspective of the individuals who do the job.

This is significant as employees are now viewed as the most trusted spokesperson of an organisation, and in a world where the public demand the truth, this is one way of providing it.

There are so many great examples of NHS trust staff talking directly to patients and local fire stations showing their community why inconsiderate parking delays their response to emergencies.

One Twitter account that sticks out is The Coastguard Team, who share the adventures of the 'wee guys', their Lego Coastguard team, as well as coastal safety messaging, and this was all created by one of their volunteers.

So while budgets may go down, there's ample opportunity to be more impactful with what you've already got - employees and their perspectives are a great place to start.

Sarah Roberts is comms manager at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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