If there’s one thing to be said for modern communications, it's that we’re living in a time of unbelievable opportunity. We have more ways of reaching audiences directly than ever before.
But some of the possibilities can be out of reach for those public sector communications teams just trying to get through the day with whatever resources they can muster.
In some places, training budgets have either been cut, or professionals are so embroiled in the day-to-day that taking time out to develop themselves never makes it up the very long to-do list.
I was recently elected chair of FirePRO, a national body representing communications professionals across the fire and rescue sector.
Our main aims are to encourage collaboration in the sector, share best practice, support learning, raise standards and represent our sector nationally.
This is why the future is very much on my mind. It’s our duty to look at the future for communications professionals within our sector and beyond. And support them to get there.
We recently held our annual FirePRO conference in Birmingham. It was great to see representation from teams across the country.
Despite continuing financial pressures, people are still valuing their development.
The conference was packed with learning. The RNLI and London Fire Brigade talked about managing crisis communications and how to manage both internal and external.
Wiltshire Police gave a gripping account of their recent experiences with nerve-agent attacks, which can only be likened to being in a real-life Tom Clancy novel.
There were also engaging campaigns such as 'NHS70', which showed the power of using lots of local organisations and influencers to spread campaign messages, and Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s playful water-safety initiative 'Got ducked, fell in'.
Events such as this are needed. With changes in technology and channels, how the media are operating and audience behaviour developing rapidly, we all need to keep on top of our game.
And we haven’t even got on to the implications of artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
Spending time together with other people in our profession helps foster that continual learning culture, but it also helps people realise we’re not alone.
Other teams are tackling the same issues and have the same day-to-day hurdles to overcome. By coming together problems are shared, ideas are swapped, and resilience grows.
One of the main priorities for my tenure as chair of FirePRO will be to strengthen those networks, support our professionals to develop new skills, and look at sharing the burden. There are great campaigns and ideas being created all over the sector.
If we unite around our common issues, pool resources, and allow local ideas to become highly impactful national campaigns, we can achieve so much more.
Paul Compton is head of comms and engagement at Devon and Someret Fire and Rescue and the new chair of FirePro
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