Since when has a lack of cakes ever been a good thing? When it's a key metric for a comms campaign

Let me explain... We had an issue. Specifically, trying to address a perennial headache around reaching a remote group of staff - our on-call firefighters.

No cake (as a key metric) is a good thing, argues James Morton
No cake (as a key metric) is a good thing, argues James Morton
In Hampshire, around half of our firefighters are on-call and respond to incidents from their day jobs. 

They’re barely ever in front of a computer, which means it can be difficult for them to pick up communications in the same way that full-time or office-based staff would. 

They are also spread across more than 50 different fire stations around the county.

An internal comms audit told us this group had limited access to our corporate IT or email facilities. 

What they did have, though, were smartphones. Elsewhere in the organisation we were also making excellent use of digital and video technology.

And so Fireflash was born – a monthly TV-style news bulletin to communicate with our internal audiences.

It was designed and produced to reflect what people were used to from their news bulletins – no more than three to four stories, a pacy format, with a mix of 'harder' corporate news and 'lighter' human pieces.

It was posted (unlisted) on YouTube each month, so staff could access it anywhere, anytime – and didn't have to be logged on to a work computer or at a work site.

Fireflash rapidly established itself as a valued and – more importantly – viewed channel. 

Around one-third of staff will watch Fireflash each month, with a third of those views happening outside our corporate IT network – exactly how we were hoping people would access it.

And the cakes?

Well, on the watch of a fire station, being caught in a video or picture – for either public or internal use – is a heinous crime punishable by purchase of cakes for all your crew mates.

A nice way to keep the doughnuts rolling in, but something that became a strange and surprising barrier for us in getting people to appear on camera in the early days of Fireflash.

But two years down the line and the issue of cake fines has crumbled away quietly – a sure sign of Fireflash's role in redefining comms within our organisation and people's desire to appear in it.

Receiving a silver award at last year’s Public Sector Communications Excellence Awards was massive for us for so many reasons.

For a county fire service of around 1,500 employees, it was amazing to be recognised in the same bracket as huge departments and organisations such as NHS England, the Home Office and the Department for Education.

But probably most pleasing was the recognition for two areas we had invested a huge amount of time and attention in – our internal comms and our use of digital channels.

James Morton is external comms manager at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

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