Friday, August 19, 2011

Charlotte Fire Department Embraces Online Video Revolution

Facebook and Twitter seem to get all the love, but YouTube is a great example of how online video content has changed the way we communicate.

Not soon after YouTube introduced us to skateboarding mishaps and ill-advised backyard wrestling stunts, the light bulb went off for many businesses and government entities as they began to realize how valuable this ability to post and share video content could be. Enhancing video sharing is the ease of using and low cost of purchasing video recording technology. You can record and upload a video on your smart phone in just minutes! You can raise the video quality bar by purchasing a Flipcam for $100 or less.

For many agencies, this is an area of untapped potential, but the Charlotte Fire Department is taking full advantage of this opportunity to communicate with the public through YouTube and other social media.

Mark Basnight, a 25-year veteran of the Charlotte Fire Department (CFD), is the Public Information Officer for the Office of Media & Public Affairs. He recently shared his experiences and expertise as a presenter at the 2011 NAGC Communications School.

Basnight serves as co-website manager for content & design, host of the Internet-based CFD Talk Radio show, co-producer for CFD Today "Live with Chief Hannan" TV show, and is responsible for the research, development, and application of social media technology.

“We've come to understand that our audience is a very visual driven community,” said Basnight. “The Flip Cam provided us an opportunity to capture video and make it available to a broad audience in a very timely manner. YouTube is certainly one of our most popular SM applications.”

In addition to YouTube, the Charlotte Fire Department currently makes use of several social media technology and applications including:
Yahoo Groups
Google Groups
BlogSpot (CFD News & Information)
Blog Talk Radio
Facebook (for communicating crisis messaging and safety information)

CFD also uses Google Translate to translate blog content into various foreign languages, and utilizes Skype video conferencing via desktop and iPhones to conduct live media interviews and press briefings.

“We've used video from the flip cam to compliment after-action reports, provide news footage for local and national media, and create public service announcements,” said Basnight, adding that CFD has had more than 91,000 views of its Flip Cam videos via YouTube.

So what’s next for CFD?

“We have been working diligently with a vendor to produce a mobile application that will enhance and foster our ability to reach our audiences wherever they are,” Basnight added.
“The app will utilize some of the latest GIS and artificial intelligence technology available. We hope to make it available sometime in the last quarter of 2011.”

Basnight also serves as the Chair of the Department of Homeland Security Virtual Social Media Working Group, a member of the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Network, and as a Disaster Response Public Affairs Officer for the American Red Cross.

He added, “One of the things I am most proud of is creating the term ‘social media cross pollination’ and the phrase ‘the message doesn't change, the way we communicate has.’"

Mark Basnight and the Charlotte Fire Department: Good Communications…Good Government.

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