This toolkit provides a variety of resources and strategic advice to help affiliate leaders become better communicators and create a communications plan.
It’s important for every affiliate to have a strong communication plan in place on how to communicate effectively with your membership, the media and the public. An effective communication plan is also essential in contract negotiations or fighting back against cuts to retirements and other benefits, as well as to fire department resources. This ability to communicate effectively is even more important in a crisis – you never know when a crisis will hit and require a media response in adverse circumstances.
The IAFF Communications and Media Department is also available to assist with web site development, social media programs, direct mail and other printed collateral, community outreach campaigns and crisis communications efforts. Contact your district vice president to request assistance.
For more information, email [email protected].
What is social media?
Social media consists of online networks in which users interact with each other, share ideas and discuss topics of interest. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among the many social media sites that are popular for a variety of audiences across the world. Blogging is another popular form of social media, used to create articles and share opinions on certain topics. Through social media, users are able to send unfiltered messages to viewers of their choice, in a matter of seconds.
Why is it important?
While traditional public relations practices, such as press releases and print advertisements, are still relevant, social media has taken over the top spot for reach and impact. Social media is key because it gives users the ability to reach thousands of people unfiltered. Public relations campaigns can be promoted on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to excite your followers and keep them interested in your union. Social media is also a great way to receive feedback, since the sites allow reciprocal communication. Most importantly, social media is FREE! The majority of social media sites do not charge for their use, however, certain sites charge a fee in exchange for additional online exposure.
How is it relevant to fire fighters and you local?
Fire fighters are responsible for keeping our communities safe. With social media, fire fighters can easily engage the community and make sure everyone is aware of relevant information. For example, a local fire fighter could use Twitter to take a picture of an accident he has witnessed to send a quick, powerful message about the dangers of drinking and driving. It allows fire fighters to tell their stories for good effect.
Who is the target audience?
One of the more valuable features of social media is its wide range of users. The Pew Research Center found 73 percent of adults online use at least one social media site and 42 percent use multiple social networking sites. Fire fighters can use social media to reach hundreds of individuals in their local community, since the sites are easily accessible through the Internet, via computer and mobile device.
When should you use it?
Social media can be used for a variety of reasons. Fire fighters can send quick updates about a fire in an area, post pictures of local events they are hosting or give helpful tips on how to stay safe. Social media is a great way to promote campaigns and generate interest about upcoming events. It is important to send messages via social media sites at appropriate times, depending on the situation and target audience. Make sure your messages and posts are sent several hours apart to avoid Twitter blasting your followers. Messages about a particular event should be sent about one week in advance, so your community has ample time to fit the event in their schedule. Please plan to post regularly and be consistent! Make sure you select the right people to convey the message that best represents your affiliate.
How do you get started?
Posting social media messages is quite simple, but most sites first require you to have an account. Once an account is created, all messages sent from that site will be associated with that account. Social media messages can be short and general, such as “The International Association of Fire Fighters wants to wish everyone a Happy New Year!,” or they can have a strategic purpose, such as “City of Los Angeles fire fighters are visiting local schools today to educate students about the dangers of texting and driving.” Pictures and info graphics can be paired appropriately with certain messages to attract more viewers. When creating a social media message, remember that your post will be visible online forever. Take time to review the message and remember, anything you post is a direct reflection of your union.