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Social Media Portal interview with the London Fire Brigade

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 22 June 2012

Social Media Portal interview with the London Fire Brigade (LFB)

Social Media Portal (SMP) profiled interview with Rob McTaggart, Senior Communications Officer at LFB

London Fire Brigade (LFB) logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your role at London Fire Brigade (LFB)?

Rob McTaggart (RM): I’m Rob McTaggart, Senior Communications Officer at LFB. I deal with the press on all fire matters and I am one of a team who manage the Brigade’s social media pages. My main responsibility is to promote life-saving community safety messages, around issues like smoke alarms, kitchen safety and smoking.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about London Fire Brigade (LFB) (for those that don’t know, hey you never know!), what does the organisation do?

Photograph of Rob McTaggart, Senior Communications Officer at LFBRM: The LFB is one of the largest fire and rescue services in the world and is the biggest in the UK. We respond to fires and other emergencies and work to prevent fires from causing harm or damage to people, property or the environment. Not just squirting water at fires and rescuing cats up trees.

SMP: Who are your target audience for your campaign Eat My Goal and why?

RM: The campaign is for anyone who likes having a drink while watching the football and then thinks they’re Gordon Ramsay when they’ve had a few drinks. With two fires a day happening after Londoners have been drinking, it was clear that it was an issue to tackle if you pardon the pun. By using social media we also hope to reach those young professionals aged 18-35 who have 25% of all accidental house fires.

SMP: Why did London Fire Brigade (LFB) decide to launch the campaign?

RM: The links between drinking and cooking fires are long established in the fire service community but getting the public to care is a different matter. The Sun’s front page on the Friday 11 May ‘Football’s staying home’ got us thinking that Euro 2012 will largely be watched down the pub. The campaign will hopefully make people think twice before cooking under the influence of alcohol.  

SMP: Who created and manages the activity for the campaign?

RM: The press and social media work was created and managed in house by our press office. Using our diverse workforce we translated the posters into seven other European languages at no extra cost.

Our marketing team were responsible for putting together the communications plan – doing a research on the demographics of football fans, and how this lined up with fire data for that audience.  We also looked at suitable messaging and strategies for reducing cooking fires and the campaign artwork was designed by our in-house creative team. Finally, we worked with our agency Hunterlodge to put together an above the line media plan to support our below the line press and social media work.

SMP: How did you initially attract users to your social assets for the campaign, and how do you do it now?

RM: We are in the unique position of being the first people to know about fires and other incidents happening right across London at any given time. Once people realised they could turn to our Twitter feed for reliable and timely information about real incidents that they could see or that were affecting them in some way, our followers steadily increased.
During high profile incidents, like the London riots last August, the public turned to our feed to find out what’s going on and our follower count usually goes up dramatically at these times.

The remit is simple: we tweet about serious, high profile or unusual incidents attended by our crews across the capital and that is the key to our feed’s success. People understand the reason for our tweets, they can rely on the information and they can find out what’s going on in their own neighbourhoods or areas of work.
With this campaign, we were fortunate in that we already had a large number of followers who fell within the target audience so all we needed was for them to re-tweet our messages and we knew we’d be able to reach thousands of people really quickly and effectively.

Our Facebook audience is pretty diverse and as well as members of the public the page has attracted  followers who are linked in some way to the fire service, as well as family and friends of firefighters and fire brigade enthusiasts.  Our Facebook fans respond well to quirky video clips and photographs so we engaged them in the campaign by creating a unique ‘fone jacker’ style ‘Eat My Goal’ video and encouraged people to join us on Twitter @LondonFire to take part in the takeaway competition.

We’ve dabbled in YouTube for a number of years but we are now working on building up our presence through our new channel, ‘LFBWatch.’ There are more videos planned throughout the year and our fonejacker style video for the Eat My Goal campaign can be viewed below and on YouTube.

Eat My Goal video on YouTube

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks in general and what impact could this have for London Fire Brigade (LFB)?

RM: The next step is to find whether this is working in reducing the number of fires, injuries and deaths in our target audience. Having the largest combined Twitter and Facebook following (33,000) for any UK regional or local authority is a fantastic achievement but cutting the number of fires is much more important than the number of followers. We will continue to inform and get our messages across in an engaging, thoughtful and cutting edge way.

Social Media Portal (SMP) profiled interview with Tori Allerston, Marketing Manager at LFB

SMP: What is your role at London Fire Brigade (LFB)?

Photograph of Tori Allerston, LFB’s Marketing ManagerTori Allerston (TA): I’m Tori Allerston, LFB’s Marketing Manager and I manage all marketing activity for the Brigade. This ranges from brand management and corporate identity to ad hoc community safety and recruitment campaigns using the full marketing mix.

SMP: What other marketing channels are you using to reach Londoners for the Eat My Goal campaign?

TA: We have run radio adverts on Talk Sport and Absolute Radio maximising on their coverage of the Euro games. Ads went into the London Metro to coincide with the first two England games, and we have placed washroom panels in around 200 central London pubs alongside additional ads on vending machines all targeting people who may have been out watching the football.

We also provided our community safety teams with posters and flyers which they managed to get displayed into even more pubs and public spaces.

SMP: How long will the campaign run for?

TA: The idea for the campaign was to go for a short burst for maximum impact and relevance, so all marketing activity was focussed on the period covering England’s three first games from 11 – 19 June. However, the washroom advertising will run on until the end of the month.

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far?

The campaign was bound to attract criticism for telling people to get a takeaway in the face of all the healthy eating messaging which has been so prominent in the past few years. But some people take it too literally and think we are fuelling an obesity crisis. However the negative coverage we sometimes get just extends our reach, which is why we chose such a controversial route.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

TA: The campaign has been really well received - something about the combination of firefighters, football and food has really captured people’s interest. We are overwhelmed with the response we’ve received in the press and on social media, especially from our #eatmygoal competition – some of the responses we got when we asked for football team/player inspired takeaway food were fantastic.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities social media at the London Fire Brigade (LFB)?

TA: The biggest challenge is getting our fire safety messages across in a way that doesn’t make people turn off, but people will always be drawn to firefighters and fire engines so we try to use that to our advantage. Also with the growth of social media and all the new tools and channels that keep emerging, the opportunities are endless.

SMP: Why is social media a good medium for the London Fire Brigade (LFB), any drawbacks in using it so far?

TA: We love it because we can closely manage it in house, and once you’ve established an audience you can generate quite unexpected results in the matter of an afternoon with a global impact. The main drawback has to be establishing the right audience in the first place – if people think we’re going to tell them to test their smoke alarm every five minutes or make them cringe by trying to be too ‘down with the kids’ they’ll never give us a chance!

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout 2012 and into 2013 – what impact could this have for the public and the way they interact with you?

TA: I think the analytical and data monitoring element of social media is going to develop dramatically. It could mean we find out more than ever before about our audiences, the way and the reasons that data is shared and the true reach of social media campaigns. This can only be good news for the public, it means they’ll be getting more of the type of information that they want to receive and ultimately that they will be safer from fire and better informed than ever before.

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media throughout 2012 and into 2013?

TA: I think Twitter is going to get more savvy with the sales and advertising angle. They are doing a bit with promoted tweets and sponsored links but I think it’s in its infancy and that is set to grow dramatically. What remains to be seen is how the users will react to this and whether they will stay – for example, now celebrities are tweeting advertising messages, they are at risk of losing their credibility.

As much as I think Google is very clever, I don’t think Google+ is going to go anywhere soon. Facebook is far too well established.

I think there is big business in analytical tools for monitoring the use of social media and expect this to grow – at least we hope it will. There’s some stuff out there but there are definitely teething issues with it, for example software can’t accurately sense the sentiment of messages, Twitter relies on whether or not the user has used a frowny or smiley face, and I think this is set to develop.

SMP:  What are your top five tips for fans and otherwise during and post Euros?

TA replies with:

  • Fit a smoke alarm if you haven’t got one.
  • Test your smoke alarm, it takes seconds but it might save your life.
  • More fires happen in the kitchen that anywhere else in the house – never leave your cooking unattended, and if you’ve been drinking don’t even bother with the cooking.
  • If you’re smoking make sure your cigarette is right out when you’ve finished.
  • Never tackle a fire yourself; Get out, stay out and call 999.

Now some questions for fun

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

RM: 35 hours plus on call, out of hours, duties

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

RM: Lunch – pesto pasta, far too much made at home now for lunch the next day. Never tastes as nice.

SMP: If you weren’t working at the London Fire Brigade (LFB) what would you be doing?
RM: Following the England cricket team around the world, writing about them and hopefully getting on Test Match Special.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

TA: Gave everyone at work lots of cake.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

TA: Egypt in May.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

TA: Check my emails with a good cuppa.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

TA: Time travel, even if its not widely accepted as a superpower, because it’d be really interesting.
London Fire Brigade website

London Fire Brigade on Twitter @LondonFire

London Fire Brigade EatmyGoal hash tag #EatmyGoal

London Fire Brigade on Facebook

If you're interested in doing a Social Media Portal (SMP) interview, get in touch.

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