External Storytelling: Part 3 "We Need to Know We Are Valued"

Jim Aleski

January 22, 2024

A nice thing about social media tools is that they give you metrics. You immediately know how many people interact with your content. I wrote my Master's thesis on how fire departments use Facebook. I found that one thing was consistent – people liked the content that talked about a fire department's people and what they do

In other words, stories about firefighters doing work. And is this any different than the newspaper headlines of old?

If we don't or can't tell people what we do, how can we expect others to understand and value what we do? And while our workload and scope increase in many places, our resources remain the same or decrease. So how do we close that gap?

We don't exist without public support! Our service exists because the public allows it to – through taxes, donations, or other resources THEY give us. So they deserve to know they're getting good value for their dollar.

The public needs to know what we're doing in order to value us, and as Chief Gerard wrote, we need to know we are valued. We need to understand that the sacrifices this job demands from us are worth it.

So just as we've long learned the value of telling stories around the firehouse kitchen table, we need to recognize the importance of telling stories to an outside audience. As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, "I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine."

We need to continue to remind people of that humanity.

(Part 3 of 3)

Jim Aleski is a 25+ year fire service veteran and career Lieutenant in the Cherry Hill (NJ) Fire Department outside of Philadelphia. Jim serves as a Branding and Content Specialist at NEP and formerly served as the Communications/Social Media Director for the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ), the state affiliate of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Prior to becoming a career firefighter, Jim responded as a volunteer while working for more than a decade as a media producer. Jim was involved in the production of hundreds of national TV commercials, network branding campaigns, music videos, and corporate communication projects. Jim holds a BS in Mass Communications from Emerson College and earned a MS in Fire and Emergency Management Administration from Oklahoma State University.