As part of the Social Media Strategies Summit for First Responders, we're highlighting the amazing speakers taking part in this two day virtual event. The event runs May 9 - 12 and features a wide-range of compelling sessions.
What is your session for SMSS about?
"Stop The Bleed” - How DC Fire and EMS Launched Into A New Era of Communications Using Social & Video.
The DC Fire and EMS Department’s Media & Community Relations Division made a calculated effort to establish itself as a public safety communications leader in the Washington DC region and within the fire service within a measured time period. Key hires over the past five years and a strategy emphasizing timely and consistent messaging with a recent focus on increased quality video production took the Department into a new era of communications.
A veteran fire buff, a seasoned government servant, and two former journalists make up the team that is pushing to ensure the comeback is the new standard of how best to tell the Department’s story and how to cement positive relationships with the community and the media. Participants will learn how one of the nation's busiest fire and EMS department currently utilizes social media and video to provide the public with real-time information on critical incidents, special events, as well as for internal and external messaging. The team also shares what they did after protestors stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as an example of the incorporation of video messaging used to capture the actions of the men and women who serve the District of Columbia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Crystal Mullings is a Public Affairs Specialist focused on content creation for the Washington, DC Fire and EMS Department. She shoots, edits, and produces videos intended for social media and internal consumption. She works alongside federal and local partners as part of the District’s response during national events such as the US Capitol Insurrection Attempt and the Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden in 2021. With a background as a multimedia journalist and public relations account executive at a firm, she specializes in messaging and perception through visual mediums. During her time with DC Fire and EMS, she has produced more than 200 videos, each intended to create a better image of the fire department within the media and public, depict members in a positive light, increase recruitment efforts, share challenges transparently, provide understanding of training and preparation methods and tell the overall story for DC firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.
What do you love about your job?
It is an honor to tell the stories of some of the bravest men and women in the region. First responders are often overlooked. It is a thankless job, but DC Fire and EMS is a department filled with industry-wide experts in the field. Their compassion, bravery, accountability, integrity, and service is a joy to capture and share. Turning around a video package on a rescue or reunion between our members and the community is rewarding and fulfilling.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
There are hard days when the stories do not have a happy ending, or when our members act out of character with the department's standards. With tight deadlines and long-term projects and campaigns, it can often be challenging to maintain the media and public perceptions but we are lucky to have a transparent and honorable principal in our Fire and EMS Chief.
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?
One of the most memorable moments in recent history is responding to the event at U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. This event where multiple first responders from DC Fire and EMS heroically removed, treated, and transported patients from in and around the U.S. Capitol. Regardless of whether they were rioting or enforcing law, patients were treated equally. I was part of the Fire Operations Center during the event, but was tasked with following up with an action report. I conducted individual interviews with members who treated patients.
After collecting more than two dozen interviews from our members, the Fire and EMS Chief requested I produce a documentary chronicling the event from the perspective of our first responders. Ultimately, I led the project on a 50 minute documentary incorporating the interviews and the department invited media and city officials to a screening before we released it to the public. After its release, we had filmmakers and reporters all over the country and beyond ask to use content from it or interview our members for themselves.
As the first real public comment pertaining to DC Fire EMS response at the U.S. Capitol, I learned so much about how to share the story of our members involvement in a national political event. The high level of detail and the degree of the intensity of the event provided me with a great opportunity to craft a message with the voices of our members.
What's your top tip or piece of advice regarding social media engagement in public safety?
Making sure you are tailoring your content to the platform you're sharing it on. Remember that each platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok) audiences differ tremendously. Have a little (clean) fun with your audience!
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively
?Hootsuite, Facebook Creator Studio, Twitter Studio, iPhone-friendly lavalier microphones
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO who might not have one?
Every leader needs someone who can serve as the Subject Matter Expert on crisis communications, understanding the media's needs, and craft messages that help make the agency shine.