Each year, IAFF affiliates throughout the United States and Canada submit entries in the IAFF Media Awards Contest, hoping to win a first, second or honorable mention award.

While all are grateful for the plaques and monetary prizes, most affiliates enter the contest as a public show of appreciation to the media for presenting them in a positive way or to showcase their own communications and public relations efforts. Award-winning entries can also provide other affiliates with ideas and strategies for their own campaigns and other public relations efforts.

Some of the winning entries in the 2012 Media Awards Contest are highlighted here as examples of effective community outreach, member communications and public relations campaigns.

In the “Best Affiliate Public Relations or Political Campaign” category, Henderson, NV Local 1883 won second place for its “Check Your Seats in the Heat” car safety campaign. Local 1883 President Daniel Pentkowski explains that the car safety campaign was developed to help stop outside sources from defining the fire fighters’ image to the public. “We’ve had more than our fair share of instances when the media unfavorably characterized our members, putting us in reactive mode,” he says. “Community outreach programs like this one focused on child safety are helping reverse that trend.”

In 2010, Local 1883 launched its first safety campaign — “Be Water Safe” — to help prevent drowning, “The great side effect to both of these campaigns is that we have been able to foster relationships with City leaders, big corporations, local businesses, the media, civic groups and the public,” says Pentkowski. He adds, “Placing second in the IAFF Media Awards contest has furthered our credibility and allowed us to gain more control over how we are perceived by decision makers and the public.”

The “Check Your Seats in the Heat” campaign was launched in collaboration with the City government, police, Smith’s grocery store chain and civic groups, including the Kiwanis Club. In addition to a press conference to announce the campaign, Local 1883 spread its message about checking seats for children or pets before exiting a vehicle using public service announcements (PSAs), appearing on area talk shows and passing out red ribbon reminders to residents to put on steering wheels, as well as creating a Facebook page and tweeting.

Albuquerque, NM Local 244 submitted its PSA, “That’s My Job,” a project that also was designed to help the local get better control of its image and to influence public opinion. The PSA’s simple, but effective message: “Responding to your call within minutes to save your life.”

Local 244 President Diego Arecon says, “The PSA more than served its purpose. Submitting it in the IAFF Media Awards Contest and winning an honorable mention also gave Local 244 the opportunity to thank the producer on the project and at the same time let other IAFF locals see what worked and might also work for them.”

The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) entered its “Provincial Election Political Toolkit” in the “Best IAFF Affiliate Public Relations or Political Campaign” category. The toolkit is filled with information and resources for affiliates to use and help ensure a consistent message.

“When we find a strategy that works well, we like to share it with our brothers and sisters so they can take what we have learned and make it work for them,” says OPFFA President Mark McKinnon. The prize money it received for the winning entry was deposited into the OPFFA PAC fund.

In the category for “Best YouTube Video,” Philadelphia, PA Local 22 took the top prize for two videos — “Olney Stands Against Brownouts” and “What Fire Fighters Do for You.”

Local 22 worked with Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) to send an important message about the effects of ongoing rolling brownouts on public safety. “Entering the videos in the IAFF Media Awards Contest also served as a public show of appreciation,” explains Local 22 Vice President Tim McShea.

The MMP is a grassroots organization in the Philadelphia area that seeks to help workers with various challenges. The organization recognized on its own that the brownouts implemented by the City were a public safety hazard that was costing lives.

The video, “Olney Stands Against Brownouts,” actually focused on a house fire that resulted in the loss of two children. The video sends a clear message that if the closest firehouse had not been closed, the two lives may not have been lost.

In the “News Story” category, Coeur d’Alene, ID Local 710 submitted “48 Hours,” written by local journalist Tom Hasslinger. Coeur D’Alene Local 710 President Matt Tosi explains that Local 710 is fortunate enough to have a good rapport with the City administration and the fire department, but did not have a relationship with the local newspaper, which often published articles about how unions are “killing the state.”

The editor agreed to send a reporter to ride along with fire fighters for 48 hours to see what it’s really like to be a fire fighter and why Local 710 needs the tools, equipment and resources to get the job done safely and effectively.

“We are very pleased with the end result,” says Tosi. “The reporter was on two back-to-back cardiac arrest calls and immediately understood why we need five on a medical call. This was really reflected well in the story.”

The IAFF is now accepting entries for the 2013 Media Awards Contest. The deadline for all entries is May 1, 2013. For more information or to submit an entry, click here.

Coming next: Tips for Submitting a Winning Entry