Is your local looking to perform a public image makeover or looking for ways to establish a better relationship with the press?

We hope these tips will help your local get its message out.

When dealing with members of the media, it is important to remember what the public associates with the fire service: integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and accountability.

When developing a communications strategy with traditional news media (newspapers, television stations, radio), building relationships is very important. Fire fighters should know your news people, know their names and know the types of stories they report. Your union should also know photographers, producers, news directors and assignment editors. It may sound old school, but take a reporter out for coffee and chat about issues that are important to your local and why you need to be a primary source for information when it comes to public safety. You do not want to be meeting these people for the first time as a Local emergency is breaking loose. If you establish a rapport in good times, it will make a difference, especially when you need the media to report on an issue that is important to your local. The same strategy is important if you are trying to connect with bloggers in your community.

But don’t rely on traditional media only. There are more ways than ever before to help you boost your public image. Use your Facebook page to share fire safety tips, community news and the good charitable work that your local contributes daily. Always work to build your audience.  Not every post has to be about the fire department. You can be creative in how to grow your Facebook page and Twitter Feed. And most importantly, keep it updated!

In order to be an effective resource for the public and press, remember to provide answers to the “Who,” “What,” “Why,” “When,” “Where,” and “How.” If you can do that on social media you are on your way to a winning communications strategy.

When it comes to reshaping your image, you are the masters of your brand.  You should have your communications structure in place BEFORE you need it.  You do not want to have to try and familiarize yourself with the media in a time of crucial importance when you should be focused on the important message you are trying to send.

What has your local done to improve your public image and add value to your community?