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The monitors are still cooling from EMS World Expo’s Preconference Day 1 and my head is already spinning.
I’ve grown (somewhat) accustomed to the deer-in-the-headlights feeling of being on-site at EMS World Expo, where you are pulled in a dozen different directions and wish you could clone yourself so as not to miss that “other” terrific speaker down the hall.
In some respects—even though you’re seated in your home or office for this year’s virtual event—it feels somehow more hectic, as those other terrific sessions are just one mouse-click away. It takes a lot of focus and self-determination not to flip around as if you were working your cable TV remote.
A couple of ruminations from Day 1:
Two of my great passions converged into one outstanding morning session on Monday Sept. 14—Keeping Your Agency in The Public Eye: The PR, Publicity and Media Workshop-Part 1. Social media superstars Rob Lawrence, Alexia Jobson and Mark Tenia (respectively of Pro EMS, REMSA, and Richmond Ambulance Authority) came together for a 4-hour workshop (Part 2 will be held tomorrow, Sept. 15).
The EMS industry is now constantly in full view, whether it’s courtesy of bystander iPhone users or that news crew looking for a breaking story, Lawrence told his digital audience. “We’re in the public eye whether we choose to be or not,” said Lawrence. We drive around in vehicles with huge billboards on the side. As such, it's critical to demand a high standard of professionalism at all times. The last thing you want to see is a television reporter wagging a stack of papers at a camera crew outside of your station.
A good reputation is the hardest thing to gain, and the easiest to lose, Lawrence said. It takes 10 good stories to overcome just one negative one.
Jobson continued the talk by stressing that we spend an average of 6.5 hours per day consuming digital content. We no longer have to wait for news to be packaged and broadcast to us—we are active programmers who seek out our own content on our own time. And that content can take on dozens of formats—websites, blog posts, editorials, social media, podcasts, infographics, videos, webinars, newsletters, brochures and more.
When developing content surrounding your agency’s accomplishments, know your audience, continued Jobson. Television crews are looking for something different than radio and print/digital outlets.
Regardless of audience, writing is a key component. Develop your content for a specific purpose—plan more time than you think you will need for research, gathering, writing, approvals, editing, and posting/publishing/distributing. Read all kinds of writing to improve your own “voice,” and ask for feedback and review. Don’t get too attached to your own content or lose perspective because you’re too “close” to what you are working on. Rewriting is good writing, said Jobson.
Once you have finalized your content, cross promote and tag others, encouraging them to repromote the message.
Don’t feel like you don’t have anything interesting to say. EMS is full of favorable stories and messages that news outlets would be eager to share with viewers. As an example, REMSA wanted to raise awareness of their dispatch team, and developed a “care starts with the call” campaign celebrating their call-takers, Jobson said. A larger video feature was cut into smaller snippets for the agency’s social media pages.
Lawrence added examples of car seat safety checks around Thanksgiving and a news pitch about studded snow tires on ambulances in the wintertime as additional ways to get news media to visit and report on your EMS service. Even a recent account of an EMT serving as a model for an American Girl doll is a feel-good story that news outlets will pounce on.
Tenia discussed the importance of employee social media policies, which set expectations for staff both at work and outside work. Clearly define the code of conduct regarding employee use of social media, advised Tenia, adding that Richmond Ambulance Authority conducts social media training for all new employees including real-world examples of troublesome posts. Convey clear rules to your staff—What are considered violations? What are employees prohibited from posting and what are the repercussions for breaking the rules?
Along with that, have an engagement policy for your social media platforms that dictates how users can comment and interact. People want to feel safe expressing their opinion without being attacked with discriminatory, vulgar, obscene or off-topic rhetoric.
We cover social media etiquette quite often in EMS World, but in today's hypercharged climate, can it really be overstated?
When dealing with the media, establish a mutually beneficial relationship, the presenters stressed. Every interaction with a news organization is an opportunity to build a relationship and to position your service as an industry leader.
Following this talk I sat in on the Educator’s Huddle, where Gary Heigel, Ginger Locke, Maia Dorsett and Christopher Kroboth discussed current trends in EMS education.
Most EMS educators did not set out for teaching to be their career goal, Heigel said. People enter EMS to be providers, not teachers. As a result, many educators simply develop their teaching approach by replicating what they see around them, rather than refining their own system based on evidence-based educational theory. But just like clinicians can learn and practice new clinical skills, educators can adopt new approaches as well, Heigel said.
I barely got a chance to breeze through the Third Annual International State of the Future of Resuscitation Conference, a Cardiac Ischemia EKG Workshop, the NAEMT’s World Trauma Symposium, or several other fascinating sessions... And this is just a taste of what’s taken place so far. Do yourself a favor—if you haven’t registered yet, please join us.
On to Day 2!
Jonathan Bassett is editorial director of EMS World. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org