Eric Hurst, Public Information Officer, South Metro (CO)
Social Media: “Take Charge of the Narrative, or Someone Else Will.”
“Take charge of the narrative, or someone else will,” Eric Hurst told students at the Tuesday morning workshop, “Mastering Social Media and Photography.”
The public information officer for the South Metro (CO) Fire Rescue, Hurst emphasized that the fire department should use social media to get their story out first, which will allow it to set the narrative. According to Hurst, “The media will report based on what you tweet.”
It is also important to ensure social media postings are coordinated and sequential. In an incident involving a fire at a residential building, a post that was labeled as an update showed the charred building was sent before a post from earlier in the incident showing the structure in flames.
Growing social media must be done judiciously, he emphasized. Information needs to be relevant. ”You’ll get more mileage out of your social media if your content is relevant.”
He didn’t recommend the automatic posting of items. Sometimes, a lighthearted fire department human interest story might post just after breaking news about a major emergency. This would be inappropriate, he said.
Hurst outlined guidelines for setting up media staging areas, and encouraged keeping good relations with the media on scene. Be equitable with all media representatives, including latecomers. This is one way to bank goodwill. “Help them to tell the story.”
Hurst outlined the advantages and disadvantages of the major social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Each has different capabilities and capacities in terms of editing and text/image/video posting limitations.
He also recommended Nextdoor.com, a social media platform designed to connect neighborhoods through social media. The fire department can use this platform to relay messages and alerts to the entire district, or aim a message to the specific neighborhood concerned. For example, the department could alert one neighborhood that it will be conducting a training drill in their area.
Also, Hurst recommended PulsePoint, an application aimed at reducing death from sudden cardiac arrest. Once the department receives a 911 call, an automatic alert is sent to subscribers who are near the patient and can render CPR while the first responders are enroute.
“Use every opportunity to improve the image of your agency,” Hurst advised. He recounted his department’s role in aiding a horse that had collapsed in exhaustion into a shallow stream. Members responded to keep the horse’s head above the water and ultimately helped it out of the stream and onto its feet. Such a post can help build goodwill with the local community. If you display compassion in aiding an animal, he said, the community “will relate that to how you will treat them.”