NIFRS CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY

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1 NIFRS CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY Prepared by: Corporate Communications Department

2 CONTENTS 1. Introduction 2. Context & Background 2.1 Key Issues & Influences 3. Communication Objectives & Principles 4. Key Priorities Performance Measurement 6. Consultation 7. Communicating the Strategy 2

3 1. INTRODUCTION This Corporate Communications Strategy for Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) underpins the organisation s Corporate Plan It reflects and promotes the organisation s strategic aims and objectives, its vision and mission, as well as its corporate values to our wide range of internal and external stakeholders. Corporate Communications covers all aspects of external and internal communications including: Media Relations and Public Relations strategic planning, policies & procedures Provision of a 24 hour press office facility Provision of specialist professional advice on strategic communications, media and reputation management issues Media Training Issues Management Crisis Communications Management/Multi-Agency Emergency Planning Social Media Consultation & Engagement Strategic Partnerships Corporate Identity/Brand Management Web Relations Publications Event Management Public Affairs (Government Relations/Political Lobbying & Influence) Charity and Corporate Social Responsibility All aspects of internal communications, adaptive leadership and change management within the organisation. This strategy determines the direction and framework to actively engage with our audiences and to do so clearly and effectively. 2. CONTET & BACKGROUND The Corporate Communications Department has made huge strides in terms of impact and influence since it was established in The focus has been on creating a dynamic department that works across the whole organisation supporting the strategic aims of the organization to both internal and external audiences. The key milestones over the past decade include: Re-branding of the whole organisation from Northern Ireland Fire Brigade to Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service and from the Fire Authority to the NIFRS Board - as part of the overall Modernisation programme and new Fire Legislation for Northern Ireland. New Corporate Identity/Brand developed for the organisation including the Vision, Mission & Core Values defined through extensive consultation with Staff, Senior Management Group and Board. Development of new website and establishment of web editors group to manage content updates. 3

4 Development, implementation and evaluation of an annual overall Consultation Strategy to ensure that NIFRS consults meaningfully with target groups on all aspects of NIFRS business. Developed and implemented 999 Partnership Charity of the Year with Emergency Service partners Police, Ambulance and HM Coastguard raising 264,000 for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children. Development, implementation and evaluation of the NIFRS Media Handbook covering all policy and procedures when working with the media 24 hour press facility, in and out of hour s media protocols, rapid rebuttal processes when managing issues, A-Z guide on all aspects of working with the media. Crisis Communications Plan developed for NIFRS to deal with emergency, disaster and major incidents, eg, Multi-agency Emergency Media Plans and Warning and Informing strategies for all NIFRS internal and external audiences. Also incorporates corporate policy for managing communications internally and externally for Business Continuity issues. Official Twitter and Facebook pages go live. Development of Social Media Strategy and Policy outlining how the organisation will use social media platforms for engaging with external audiences; the acceptable use of Social Media by staff within and outside the work environment and best practice guidelines. Worked in partnership with agencies to promote and manage communications for the G8 Summit and the World Police & Fire Games. 2.1 Key Issues and Influences Transformational Change There is no doubt that NIFRS has had a difficult couple of years with a series of well documented external reviews and audits calling for change and transformation across the organisation. As a result, was a year of extensive change and improvement across the whole organisation. A new Corporate Management Team was established and a high-level structural review of the organisation revising the roles and responsibilities of Directorates was undertaken. Governance and accountability arrangements were reviewed and strengthened with a new Board committee structure, aligned to the new organisational structure, put in place. Like all public bodies NIFRS operates in a very challenging financial environment. Budgets are constrained and there is pressure to make the very best possible use of resources in order to protect the community. The organization needs to remodel and adapt to mitigate the risks which a reduction in budgets will inevitably generate. NIFRS is still in a period of transformation and will be required to continue to make changes some of which may generate a level of opposition both internally and externally. Clear communications and detailed plans to inform and involve all stakeholders will be fundamental in order to protect the organisation s reputation and maintain the high level of customer satisfaction within the local community. The role of the Corporate Communications Department in effectively communicating these changes to all stakeholders has never been greater. Communication and engagement of employees will be the key to delivering transformational change. 4

5 Establishment of Super Councils From 1 April 2015, 11 new Councils were created from the previous 26 councils. Under the new set-up a number of functions previously carried out by the Northern Ireland Executive Departments are now carried out by local councils including planning functions, tourism and economic development. Councils now have the ability to develop innovative approaches to addressing issues in their areas. The PSNI has re-aligned its district model to match the 11 super Council boundaries as have the PCSPs. The new structure presents opportunities to build new partnerships, develop relationships and will be a priority audience within the organisation s public affairs remit. NIFRS will be reviewing its future operational structure in light of these changes. Social Media The way in which stakeholders communicate has evolved since the last Corporate Communications Strategy. The phenomenal growth of social media and its influence provides significant communication opportunities and challenges. The increased use of Facebook and Twitter by large sections of the community provides: Increased opportunities to inform and involve residents, businesses and stakeholders in consultations Platforms to reach younger audiences Extra communication channels to provide instant updates about incidents and events Greater options to market and promote campaigns and services The downside is that there are increased opportunities for people to comment and air their views on activities and actions of the organisation and employees. Monitoring and embracing opportunities to use social media proactively is going to become increasingly important in maintaining and developing the organisation s reputation. A more inclusive approach is required around how staff view and use social media channels and encourage their involvement and input. Social media channels can be extremely effective in improving internal communications, especially given the absence of an intranet system. The devolved use of social media also has important strategic implications senior leadership becomes more attainable, corporate hierarchy is reduced and those employees included in social media activity become important brand advocates. The rise in the use of smart phones and tablet devices must be considered for future website development to ensure that it is fully mobile enabled and optimized. Internal Communications Moving forward greater emphasis and focus needs to be placed on internal communications. As the organisation emerges from the legacy issues of previous years there is a need to reestablish a sense of belonging, commitment and loyalty. Providing staff with a consistent, accurate and timely picture of the issues faced whilst supporting, listening and respecting staff views will facilitate a positive environment for the acceptance and adoption of new policies, procedures and initiatives. Regular monitoring and evaluation of internal communications will be required to ensure progress in this area. The Peer Review carried out in May 2015 showed a need to break down barriers between operational and support staff and the promotion of Team NIFRS. It also recommended that 5

6 employee success should be recognised and celebrated. Opportunities will be sought to highlight and promote organizational best practice both to internal and external audiences. 3. COMMUNICATION OBJECTIVES & PRINCIPLES Through effective communication and a robust communication framework we aim to: Reflect the vision (Protecting Our Community), mission (To deliver a fire and rescue service and work in partnership with others to ensure the safety and well-being of our community) and core values which include: People keeping our people safe and well trained Leadership leading by example Teamwork working together Integrity having the utmost integrity in everything we do Diversity - equality and fairness and we consider the needs of our staff and the community we serve Communication open and honest communication with our staff and with all our stakeholders Partnership working in partnership Pursuit of Excellence continuous improvement at all levels of our organisation. We will align with, and underpin, the organisation s strategic objectives as outlined below. We will monitor, review, develop and promote effective communications internally and externally We will maintain a unified brand across all NIFRS activities We will engage effectively with our employees and stakeholders We will protect and enhance the reputation of NIFRS through improved communication, consultation and engagement with stakeholders and partner agencies 6

7 We will demonstrate the success of our work and the contribution it makes to ensuring the safety and well-being of the community We will ensure that people understand what we do, the services we provide and how they can be accessed We will monitor and evaluate our communications and use these insights to guide and direct future activities The key principles underpinning our corporate communications are: Communication should be an integral part of strategic planning and decision making process an essential part of the fabric of all work undertaken in NIFRS Communication should be a two-way process to encourage meaningful dialogue and engagement The mechanisms to communicate should be accessible to all Communication should be targeted and tailored to meet the needs of each audience Communication should be open, transparent and timely 7

8 4. PRIORITIES The section below outlines the key Corporate Communication priorities in line with the organisation s strategic objectives. Strategic Objectives Corporate Communications Measures Outcomes Yr 1 Yr 2 Yr 3 Yr 4 Yr 5 Responsibility Prevention, Protection & Emergency Response Ensure targeted integration of our Prevention, Protection & Emergency Response to have the right resources in the right place at the right time based on our risk profile. In line with our Community Protection Strategy, to educate and inform communities that we serve to reduce risk within domestic premises. We will also provide advice, guidance and where necessary enforcement to ensure public and firefighter safety within the built environment Develop strategic and integrated communication campaigns for external audiences to support key safety messages. Establish partnership agreement with Community Protection to ensure joined up approach to safety campaigns Undertake analysis of audience and stakeholders in order to identify requirements and create tailored messages with clear call to action / Comm Pro Provide consistent, accurate and easily understood information across range of communication channels / Comm Pro Identify key players in terms of influence and reach. Engage through strategic alliance / partnership work in order to target and drive safety messages to those most at risk 8

9 Develop and implement a Public Affairs Strategy Undertake range of activities/events to promote NIFRS and support elected members in their role as community representatives Cement emergency planning processes Update Crisis Communication plan Review opportunities to use social media channels to support communications during major emergencies Attend multi-agency emergency planning exercise at Gold Level to ensure processes are robust Participate in multiagency communications group Effective Governance, Performance & Improvement Ensure effective governance, performance management, risk and accountability Ensure that the service is continually improving to deliver its services economically, effectively and efficiently Provide a Corporate Communications Unit that can support organisational needs Review structure to ensure resource allocation supports the work of the unit Review in-house graphic designer versus outside agency to handle design and multi-media activity (video production) / Estates / Comm Dev 9

10 Maximise consistency and effectiveness of NIFRS brand Review corporate identity guidelines and update policy to ensure consistent use of branding across the organisation Establish a mechanism to quality assure all branded materials and publications to ensure corporate identity is used correctly and consistently Update photography database Inform and manage expectations regarding transformational change and budget cuts Support organisational change process with regular communication Supporting Our People Ensure that our people are competent and resourced to perform their job roles and that they are treated with dignity and respect and work in an environment which promotes health and well-being and encourages them to their full potential Provide staff with consistent, accurate and timely information Undertake internal communications audit to assess staff needs, priorities and most effective delivery mechanism Using audit findings develop internal communications plan for maximum and effective two-way engagement / HR 10

11 Review and update Media handbook to incorporate media management protocols Media training identify key spokespeople and provide training / refresher training. Development of business case if outside training provider required Management of social media set up pilot scheme for roll-out across the organisation. Monitor activity on an ongoing basis and provide initial plus refresher training on regular basis / ICT Awards identify external awards that will recognise the contribution of operational and support staff across the network. Awards will also provide content rich material for profiling expertise and experience to audiences through the use of social media and media relations Combine and maximise all fundraising activities across the organisation by appointing and managing a nominated charity. A Staff Charity Committee will be set up and managed by Corporate Communications to drive fundraising activities and associated media relations / HR 11

12 Develop and implement sponsorship, fundraising and social events guidelines Website management reestablish the web editors group to review and update content. Corporate Communications to monitor updates and ensure content remains on message. Work with IT to progress training for web editors and recommend changes to style and structure of site / ICT Undertake roadshows across organisation to outline work of Dept in order to break down barriers and encourage atmosphere of trust, cooperation and collaboration Consider merits and develop guidelines for staff suggestion scheme / HR Develop guidelines and provide training for staff on best practice examples to assist in marketing activities Develop guidelines and protocol for the management and co-ordination of VIP visits 12

13 Effectively Managing Resources Provide a value for money, sustainable service that meets the expectations of our stakeholders Monitor and measure the effectiveness of all corporate communications to ensure key objectives are being met Develop KPIs for activities including: engagement on social media, use of key messages, positive coverage, satisfaction surveys, website visitor numbers etc. 13

14 5. PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT To assist in the evaluation of the success of the Corporate Communications Strategy a suite of indicators will be developed to provide performance information for both internal and external communications. The measure, frequency and target will be clearly identified for these performance indicators. In addition, individual targets and indicators will be set to evaluate the effectiveness of one-off communication projects and campaigns. Opportunities will be sought to use new and emerging technology to support innovative ways of delivering messages on behalf of NIFRS. Quarterly Progress Reports will be completed in line with NIFRS Corporate Business Planning Process to measure progress against activities. 6. CONSULTATION NIFRS will consult with staff, representative bodies and external stakeholders under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, 1998 incorporating feedback and reviewing activities where appropriate. 7. COMMUNICATING THE STRATEGY This document will be issued via Service Circular and will be uploaded onto the Policy folder within the Document Management System within the NIFRS Global drive. 14

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