Best use of digital media as part of a communications strategy 2014 Article icon


London Fire Brigade

Digital media is now integral to the London Fire Brigade’s long-term communications strategy. It is used to reassure those involved in or witnessing an incident, to avoid panic and speculation, to provide regular, accurate information for the public and media and to deliver safety information to prevent fires and other incidents.

The London Fire Brigade’s press office is proactive in finding new ways to use social media to tell stories, offer timely advice and reach new audiences. For example, it trawls through all the incidents attended by the Brigade to find newsworthy stories that can help deliver safety information and encourage engagement.

Its @LondonFire Twitter feed, which has almost 82,000 followers, is often the first to report back from scenes, whether they involve rescuing a goat from a ledge near a reservoir or investigating smoke billowing from the Shard’s basement.

When the team discovered a crystal doorknob had refracted sunlight onto a dressing gown, starting a bedroom fire, images and safety information were posted on its Facebook Page, with almost 45,000 ‘likes’, and Twitter. More than 1.4 million people saw the doorknob posts on Facebook, while its tweets were seen more than 62,000 times.

The press office also uses major events to highlight dangers. For example, there were almost 20 house fires during the 2010 World Cup; half were caused by ‘drunk cooking’. To avoid a recurrence during the 2014 tournament, before and during matches @LondonFire tweeted a mix of football banter, shocking statistics and offered JustEat vouchers using the hashtag #takeawayworldcup to encourage fans to get a takeaway rather than cook.

These tweets were seen more than 567,000 times and there were more than 15,500 engagements. When the ceiling of London’s Apollo theatre collapsed, a London Fire Brigade press officer was able to tweet live updates within 20 minutes of the first 999 call which acted to shut down rumours of a terrorist attack and allowed the service to remain in control of the conversation.

More than 650,000 people saw these tweets, while a post on Facebook reached around 13,500.

The team is not shy about gate-crashing conversations. After the Apollo theatre incident, they joined other conversations about the incident, which were found by searching #Soho, #Apollo, #theatre and #curiousincident. And during this year’s electric storms, the press office tapped into weather-related conversations and tweeted storm-related stories and safety messages.

‘This represents a very important realisation of how social media feeds into the wider agenda,’ said the judges. ‘London Fire Brigade has achieved massive results using a simple approach.’