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Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFARS) is responsible for the fire protection and emergency rescue within the Staffordshire county. a centralised marketing and communications team manage all social media communications, heavily focussing on educating and informing the public through incident reporting and safety campaigns around fire prevention.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFARS) is responsible for the fire protection and emergency rescue within the Staffordshire county. Consisting of 9 districts covering 2,713 km area, it is 80% agricultural land that reaches as far north as the Lake District and as far south as Birmingham. With 33 fire stations servicing a population of 1,126,200 inhabitants, a centralised marketing and communications team manages all social media communications, heavily focused on educating and informing the public through incident reporting and safety campaigns around fire prevention.
SFARS first joined social media in 2011 when they created their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Gareth Kirby - digital communications officer has been a serving member of the marketing and communications team for eight years and has seen the evolution of how social media is being utilised by the organisation. Gareth said, “social media use for us has changed a lot since 2011, back then it was just an additional channel to offline marketing and our website. now we have a social media first approach to our marketing.”
SFARS historically used mainly printed posters and flyers in public awareness campaigns. however, it quickly became clear that social media was becoming an incredibly effective tool to influence the public and create real behaviour change.
Outlining the importance of a forward - thinking, strategic vision in terms of how to best utilise social media inline with wider organisational priorities was identified as essential by SFARS, who now have very well developed social media accounts and clearly defined goals of increasing followers and reducing reply times to inbound queries and questions.
The marketing and communications team had a brainstorming session of how best to use social media and even achieved a viral success in 2011 with their ‘push the button’ campaign that encouraged residents to test their home fire alarms. it was covered by both local and national press and is a great example of how a relatively inexpensive project can achieve high engagement.
Objectives were to set and the team decided on how to generate even more engaging content. However, “after a decision to roll out social media access to more staff, it became apparent that comprehensive management tool was needed that had the facility to control numerous accounts”, said gareth. SFARS at the time was subscribed to a social media management tool that limited the team from achieving their goals and therefore a decision was made to source a more powerful tool.
When the search began for an alternative, Gareth started researching online. As a public sector organisations with strict budgetary constraints they looked to other partner organisations as to how they managed their social media. Their first port of call was the Chief Fire Officer Association (CFOA) to get some background information regarding social media management tools. When speaking to Staffordshire Police Constabulary, Orlo came highly recommended from a trusted organisation so the decision to switch over to the platform was made.
Since partnering with Orlo the first major change for the organisation that added value from day one was the ability to manage multiple accounts via a single unified inbox. By bringing together the accounts it allows the user to view a single stream of inbound communications and monitor and respond accordingly, in addition to being able to post out simultaneously across various accounts.
Gareth noted that the time it took to perform social media tasks was reduced considerably: “the platform allowed social media tasks to be performed quicker via the added aspect of control over social accounts...as well as a dramatic decrease in reply response times that have greatly decreased due to the unified inbox facility.”
A perfect example of how SFARS communicate and engage with the community, as well as track engagement in real time can be seen in some of the recent activity from early July 2018. due to recent high temperatures and dry weather localised fires had been breaking out in the Moorlands. “it was generating a lot of smoke near a large residential area, and many residents were concerned about the smoke being so close to their homes and were understandably concerned about their safety” said gareth.
Twitter was the primary platform to communicate and additional posts were sent out to urge the public to adhere to road closures and not ignore warnings. from a resident perspective it’s invaluable having up to date information from official sources regarding localised incidents. from minor road closures to more serious events, information from a trusted source can make all the difference when planning commutes or taking safety precautions.
As SFARS looks to the future with new social media goals in mind, the marketing team aim to increase overall engagement as well as improving their communications at a more local level. With resident engagement remaining the top priority the main communication objective is getting incident information out to the public as quickly as possible. To achieve this, access to social media accounts have been given to local fire stations. “We have given access to our official accounts to a number of tactical fire officers who respond to major incidents, as they are in a prime position to give out any information. The beauty is that marketing staff work 9 - 5 whereas the tactical fire crews are attending incidents around the clock” explains, Gareth.
With incident reporting becoming quicker and easier, so to has responding to resident queries and questions across social media. Initially SFARS had a reply time of over 45hrs, with the aim of reducing this time to under 24hrs. Looking at a comparison between average reply times of Oct - Dec 2017 to Apr - Jul 2018 we can see a 94% decrease, which in real terms equates to saving 42hrs and 50 minutes.
As a service who have set goals on greater online engagement, SFARS have seen a 31% net increase in total subscribers across social platforms. The biggest increase can be seen on Instagram with a 284% increase, Facebook in second place with a 50% increase, LinkedIn in third place with a 25% increase and Twitter in fourth place with a 19% increase.
It shows that both inbound and outbound communications have positively driven the number of subscribers on these platforms up. In real terms SFARS have successfully grown their audience by 9070 subscribers over the last year.
SFARS now joins 150 public sector clients from local government, emergency services and education, including one quarter of police forces within the UK. The needs of our public sector clients have been very well identified and our platform specifically address the unique usage cases of the day to day management of their social media. The last 12 months statistics show the positive impact social media management has had in line with SFARS’s goals. Through increasingly efficient and effective management not only have SFARS grown their net audience by 31% but have also managed to exceed their target of reducing reply times from under 24hrs to under 3hrs.
“Orlo allows social media tasks to be performed quicker via the added aspect of control over social accounts…as well as a dramatic decrease in reply response times that have greatly decreased due to the unified inbox facility.”- Gareth Kirby - Digital Communications Officer
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