I have to applaud LA City for their fantastic YouTube video on BC’s aides, as brought to us by Fossil Medic on Firegeezer. Fire departments are just now starting to unlock the potential of the Web 2.0 revolution, and not a moment too soon.
The old media were gatekeepers. The newspaper’s editor decided what you should read and to what depth. The TV producer decided when you should see something and for how long. The new media has trampled that gate underfoot. New media are anarchic, truly democratic, and accessible. The consumers, who are also often producers, decide what they consume, when, in what quantity, and to what depth. People subscribe to a YouTube channel, fan a Facebook page, Follow a Twitter, or RSS a Flickr stream. If this is gibberish to you then you need to catch up! It will all change again in a couple years and will be replaced. That’s why people talking about MySpace pages look hopelessly out of touch.
Gone are the days when a newspaper owner or editor who was beholden to some powerful political interest could scuttle your every attempt to let the people know their protection isn’t what they think it is. Gone are the days that a well thought out appeal to reason, taking weeks of preparation, is reduced to a 30-second video blurb on the noon news.
As our budgets and our resources are slashed we are evermore pressed to let people know why we need what we need. Too many firefighters count on people saying “they’re heroes” and then clamoring for more funding. That’s not how people are. People have to be convinced, first, that good fire service (meaning: fire suppression, EMS first response, hazmat response, tech and heavy rescue, and anything else that’s not fixed with a bullet but threatens them or their homes) is desirable and, second, that what you say you need will get them good fire service. Let me set that out:
- Good fire service (and non-fire FD stuff) is desirable
- What we say we need will get them good fire service
Can you show them that? Not only that, can you provide the information in a manner that they will receive? People want information when they want it and where it is convenient. That’s the beauty of the internet: all that information is living in that box that you can read on your couch, at your kitchen table, in your bunk at the station, and at all times of the day or night. They can go as in-depth as they like or they can skip over what they want!
Legacy media are important and you still need a PIO to spoon feed your message to the paper and the TV people. But you no longer have to depend on them. You cannot depend on them. You should not depend on them. Get your department or your local or your board, or whatever, on Twitter or Facebook or YouTube. Preferably all three and then whatever comes along next.
Get your information out to the people. Don’t depend on the newspaper to decide whether your information is worthy, don’t depend on the TV news to tell people when they can hear about your plight, and don’t count on people reading your banner as they drive by (they’re too busy Tweeting on their iPhones).