South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s mission is to keep the 1.29 million people of South Yorkshire safe. This obviously includes the deployment of firefighters to ongoing incidents, but increasingly fire services are focusing more on prevention rather than just cure. So public fire safety campaigns are vital part of the service’s work. The campaigns need clear and consistent messages, with fire officers at all levels briefed and ready to use all opportunities, including media interviews, to get those messages across. The fire service, and the fire authority which governs it, also occasionally have to deal with controversial topics, such explaining the rationale behind the closure of a fire station or a change in operational methods. Media training is therefore needed by officers and fire authority members to help them promote public safety messages - and explain complex operational issues.
South Yorkshire Fire Service first engaged Capital B Media to carry out media training for officers from station manager level up to the chief fire officer in 2006. The training was run over about a dozen days with different sessions designed for different needs. Since then Capital B Media has worked every year with different cohorts of trainees and has offered refresher training to those who have attended an initial course. The training is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it is up to date and relevant. The training is focused on the operational needs of the fire service, with examples and scenarios that are appropriate. Training has also been provided to fire authority members, often preparing them for interview on controversial topics.
Following the conclusion of the first round of training in 2006 Capital B Media fed back to the fire service some ideas for improving the external communication methods used by the service. These helped form a new communications strategy for the service and clarification for officers over what was expected from them. This led to Capital B Media being seen as a critical friend of the fire service and not just a training provider who popped in now and again. Over the last ten years Capital B Media has been the preferred supplier of media training to the service and has trained literally hundreds of officers. Sampled analysis of feedback of the training showed that 90% of the participants thought the training was ‘excellent’, with the remaining 10% describing it as ‘good’.