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Firefighter/EMT Safety, Health & Survival: Cultivating Your Community Relationships

Is your organization's brand identity well established within your community? That is, have you communicated your department's characteristics, values and attributes to clarify what your organization is and what it is not?

Successfully branded organizations communicate constantly with their communities—not just listening and learning about community and customer expectations, but also communicating back to them what sets you apart as an organization.

Build a Solid Foundation

Communicating and branding can't coincide with when a crisis erupts and your agency is thrust into reactive crisis-communications mode. Instead, branding and constant communication must build a foundational and trusting relationship between your organization and the community you serve.

Such strong, foundational relationships and understanding of your organization's core values support brand loyalty, not only during times of prosperity and normalcy, but also during times of challenge and crisis; these sorts of relationship have assisted many organizations survive a storm.

Communicate with Your Community

How does your organization regularly communicate with its key constituents and how do they best receive information? Many organizations utilize print media and have websites to share information with the community. These communications should clearly express the values and attributes that set your organization apart within the community and create a loyalty to your brand and more importantly your organization and its personnel.

Face-to-face community involvement is essential so community members can learn from the members of your organization. Missing opportunities to participate in community-related events are also missed opportunities to solidify a lasting positive community perception.

How actively engaged is your agency in attending opportunities to interface with the public at community homeowner meetings, gatherings, social events and other key community gatherings?

Connect through Social Media

Your communication and branding strategy must seriously consider the use of social media. Within the United States, 72% of adult internet users are active on at least one social media site, up from just a meager 8% in 2005 (Media Post).

This explosive growth rate of social media utilization—900% in the last decade—makes a compelling business case that your department should consider social media as an important piece of your branding, communication and marketing strategy with your community and beyond. This is particularly important with members of your community who are in the 20-to-30 age range, who are twice as likely to rely on social media and networking communications.

While searching for best practices, it's important to recognize that 45% of global chief business executives report utilizing social media to improve their operational visibility. (Media Post)

Take this opportunity to reexamine your existing community relations and communications efforts and how they may be strengthened. One particular opportunity may be to survey the community of their current perceptions as to your brand, communications efforts and mediums.

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