The Art of Communication

Updated: Nov 25, 2021

The organizational problem that occurs everywhere...communication! "You don't communicate at all, we never know what's going on" vs. "You send too many emails, I don't have time to read all of them". These are just the struggles internally. Communication to your external stakeholders is a whole different conversation.


So how do leaders in the volunteer fire service communicate effectively and manage their time wisely?


First off- your department needs to have an official email system. This can be accomplished through your website provider, Google for Nonprofits, or an email service provider. We recommend Google for Nonprofits as it is free and comes with a variety of tools to make your life easier (administrator access, groups, distribution lists, staff accounts, and much more!). It is 2021 so email should serve as your official source of communication within your department. Don't be that department that only posts an informational broadcast on a bulletin board in the hallway of the station.


If you have the ability to create groups in your email system, that is even better. This allows for tailored communication. For example, an EMS-specific message can be sent to the EMS providers, whereas an auxiliary-related message only needs to go to auxiliary personnel. Creating groups or distribution lists will significantly cut down on over-communication. Of course, there should be a group that encompasses the entire membership for information that pertains to everyone. ****Side note, unlike this blog post, keep your emails short and to the point. If they have to be lengthy consider bolding certain important sections to draw people back in. A recent study shows that an average American has an attention span of approximately 8 seconds (thanks to social media), so don't make your emails lengthy.


Alright now that you have your email system squared away...consider utilizing a private Facebook group to post content related to training, upcoming details, station life, membership recognition, clearances, events, and more. This is a good way for people to interact and communicate with each other. It is important to set ground rules (which you can post in the group) and monitor for such. We recommend requiring administrator approval to post content. This allows officers to review what is going to be posted prior to being shared with the group. This helps reduce drama, excessive posting, unnecessary posting, and proper content. If the group is getting filled up with irrelevant content or drama- it will lose its effectiveness. If people can't play nice in the sandbox and follow the guidelines set forth, remove them from the group. (This shouldn't be the go-to option. You don't want to appear to be silencing your membership, so be sure it is being done with merit and not bias.) Pro tip- don't copy and paste a company-wide email that you just sent and post it in the group. You can call attention to the email or provide a brief about the email in a post, but don't put the whole message.


Next up...messaging apps. Apps like WhatsApp, GroupMe, etc. are important for staffing and urgent messages. Just like the Facebook group, these apps should be limited to their intended purpose and monitored for compliance. Your personnel should know that if a message comes across GroupMe that it is a time-sensitive or urgent need.



So how do you keep everyone up to speed on what is going on behind the scenes? There are a couple of options:


  1. Send out a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly newsletter. The newsletter can include operational and administrative content, upcoming drills, recent clearances, and introducing new members.

  2. Host town halls on a quarterly basis with a complement of administrative and operational leadership. This allows the membership to get updates on projects, receive just-in-time training (specific to any trends the department may be experiencing, provide feedback and have answers addressed.

  3. Host a "Coffee with the Senior Leadership". Personnel can sign up to have a 15 minute one-on-one with the senior leadership to discuss ideas, projects, concerns, complaints, etc. This is a great way to improve communication, hear feedback, and promote membership engagement.

We have already violated our own rule...we far exceeded 8 sentences. We could go on more, but we don't want to lose your interest. Check back for more blogs! www.modernvfs.com/blog


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