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How to craft public safety messaging campaigns: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s approach

The department’s approach to campaigns underscores the importance of thorough research, inclusivity, collaboration and innovation


Members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Community Affairs department visit the Miami-Dade College West Campus to share fire and life safety information with students and faculty.


By Helen Avendano

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR), serving a diverse population of over 2.6 million residents and countless daily visitors, places paramount emphasis on delivering effective public safety messaging. These campaigns aim to educate, inform and, ultimately, save lives.

Before the process of building a campaign begins, key stakeholders weigh many considerations. The following details the process MDFR follows to create successful, effective public safety campaigns and amplify their reach.

The MDFR process

Before diving into campaign development, the MDFR media and public relations staff initiates an extensive research phase. This critical step involves gathering information on the campaign’s theme, purpose, target demographics, and the specific call to action that needs to be communicated to the public. For instance, during this year’s Fire Prevention Week, the team is focusing on the NFPA’s national campaign theme, “Cooking safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire prevention.” This theme addresses a pressing issue and is intended to help reduce the risk of home fires. Once we meet to discuss this information, we begin to build upon the different elements needed to develop the campaign.

Identify resources: To bolster the credibility and effectiveness of our messaging, MDFR uses existing resources from subject-matter experts both within our department and from outside sources. Organizations like the NFPA provide a wealth of standardized visual content, templates, videos and pre-drafted messaging. These resources enhance the campaign’s quality and reach, all while sharing valuable content.

Identify the audience: A key principle for any public safety campaign is understanding and targeting specific demographics within your community. Miami-Dade County is linguistically and culturally diverse, with English, Spanish and Creole speakers from many countries around the world. We recognize the importance of crafting messages in multiple languages to ensure inclusivity and take into account the regional dialects within these languages.

For instance, with Spanish, some countries use different words to describe an action or phrase. Using neutral language when crafting messaging helps ensure that the message is delivered and understood by the broadest audience. While we know it may be a bit of a challenge to curate messages in several languages, it’s one of the most effective strategies to reach the public. Use the resources and tools at your disposal to help with creating these messages. That could include in-house translators, third-party services or partnering with community organizations proficient in these languages.

Employ social media: Social media plays a pivotal role in disseminating public safety messages. Different platforms offer unique features, and tailoring your content accordingly will amplify the reach of your campaign. Platforms like Instagram are driving by visually engaging content, like photos and vertical videos, making them ideal for captivating users while conveying vital information. Additionally, curating your content in a concise and easy-to-understand approach helps capture your audience’s attention, helping them to retain the information.

Connect with schools: Recognizing the influence of young minds in households, we have found that one of the simplest and most effective ways of getting the message across is through families, particularly kids. At MDFR, we partner with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to promote our safety videos aimed at children and families. These videos, available on the MDFR Kids YouTube channel, provide a direct outlet to educate and engage young viewers, ultimately fostering a culture of safety within families. This growing platform is one way for us to cater messaging to this particular demographic.

Consider collaboration: To maximize the reach and impact of your messaging, consider collaborating with your department’s fire prevention and/or public education sections. This synergy allows for coordinated efforts in public education and community outreach, ensuring that messages reach the intended audience swiftly and comprehensively. Collaborating with these sections also helps to standardize your messaging and strengthens your brand identity.

Work with media: Great things can be accomplished by joining forces with media outlets to keep the community safe. Effective public safety campaigns benefit from partnerships with your local media outlets. Consider engaging with these outlets to pitch creative ideas, demonstrations, and interview opportunities that help promote your safety campaigns. Doing so will keep the reporters abreast of what your department is doing. Plus, this collaboration keeps the community informed and entertained while enhancing public safety.

Stay on schedule: Staying on schedule is a must when it comes to mapping out a specific campaign. Campaign development discussions begin to take place 4 to 6 weeks before rolling out the campaign. The team brainstorms ideas as per the intent of the campaign, its targeted audience, and the content that needs to be created for messaging, using pre-existing materials and resources from trusted sources – in this case, the NFPA.

Our team carries out a SMART plan to ensure that all campaign objectives are met. This means developing SPECIFIC content that creates fire safety awareness that is MEASURABLE and ACTION-ORIENTED to prompt the target audience with a call-to-action. The content must also be RELEVANT/REALISTIC and delivered in a TIMELY manner, in this case, during FPW.

Once the campaign is over, we gather analytics to determine its effectiveness, its reach and how the public engaged with the content. Additionally, we look into what worked and what did not work. We use this data to look for ways to improve the next campaign rollout.

Final thoughts

MDFR’s approach to crafting public safety messaging campaigns underscores the importance of thorough research, inclusivity, collaboration and innovation. By tailoring messaging to diverse demographics in your community, leveraging expert resources, and using social media and educational partnerships, your department can continue to be a beacon of safety, ensuring that important messages reach every corner of your community. These strategies can serve as a blueprint for other public safety agencies looking to enhance their communication and outreach efforts.

About the author

Helen Avendano is the media and public relations manager at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR), overseeing the daily operations of the MDFR Media & Public Relations Bureau and spotlighting the department’s commitment to community wellbeing. With over five years as the department’s senior social media specialist, Avendano honed her skills in crafting and executing impactful digital campaigns that spotlighted department services, programs and safety messages. Avendano has a bachelor’s degree in communications, specializing in public relations, from Florida International University.