Join Our Team
I had the pleasure of attending at the LGcomms and GCS Campaigns Showcase last month, where I presented on Hertfordshire County Council’s on-call firefighter recruitment campaign, Join Our Team.
This year’s event was noticeably different from previous years, with three presentations dedicated to fire service campaigns.
Firefighters appear as soon as possible when we’re in the middle of a crisis, so it can be surprising to learn that many fire stations across the country are staffed by on-call firefighters.
Our campaign Join Our Team used football’s transfer deadline day to raise awareness of the on-call role in order to recruit on-call firefighters, who currently staff around half of Hertfordshire’s fire stations.
These firefighters have to leave their bed, the dinner table, or their office to run, cycle, or drive to their local fire station before going out on a “shout”.
Gaps in our on-call crews mean that we have to rely on assistance from wholetime crews in neighbouring towns: increasing the time it takes us to respond to a call, and thinning our coverage elsewhere.
The requirements for applying have made recruiting for the role difficult: applicants have to live or work within 4 minutes of an on-call fire station, and need to be on call for an average of 90 hours a week.
What’s more, there was a troubling lack of awareness of the role in the places in which we needed to attract new on-call firefighters the most.
If we were to get the word out about the role in a meaningful way, we had to get creative.
The idea to use Deadline Day as a hook for our campaign came about last summer when we noticed a new phenomenon rising through the trending topics: football transfer announcement videos.
Across Europe, clubs from Aston Villa to AS Roma were using humorous videos with high production value to reveal newly-signed players. Soon, these videos became news stories in their own right.
As we neared Deadline Day, we recognised that sharing the right content on this platform could open up our campaign to an audience of millions awaiting news from across the premier league.
That’s why we created our very own announcement video.
The tongue-in-cheek video created in the style of the announcement ‘genre’ appealed to the elements of football fandom that we directly linked to the role of an on-call firefighter: an interest in physical fitness, supporting a community, and being a part of a team.
We launched the video on Deadline Day, promoting it to a wider audience by using the hashtag #deadlineday and asking regional partners and famous followers to retweet the video.
We used Facebook advertising to share the video directly with those who lived within 4 minutes of a fire station.
The video also served as a hook for local, regional and national media.
On the morning of Deadline Day, Chief Fire Officer Darryl Keen was interviewed on Sky Sports News live from local club Watford, explaining our campaign, the video, and the on-call role.
In the subsequent days, it became clear that our attempts at national digital and media coverage had caught the attention of our Hertfordshire audience.
We received 64 applications from eligible candidates in the first four weeks of the campaign.
Sharing our results
While listening to the challenges that fire service communications teams face may have been new to many of the delegates, it was clear from discussions across the day that the solutions to the challenges we faced were relevant across local and central government communications teams.
Common themes of increased use of video, choosing the right tone to voice the campaign, and efforts to use staff as poster-children emerged throughout the day.
Personally, I took away learnings on a range of behaviour change and reputation campaigns that will inform my work going forward.
Hertfordshire County Council