SCDF’s social media: Breaking the internet with memes and catchy public education content

This post is sponsored by SCDF. 

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has always faced two key challenges.

First, there is a long-standing public perception that SCDF is only about firefighting, rescue and ambulance conveyance. The public is not aware of the full extent of SCDF’s operations, including the dangers faced by its officers, and the passion and perseverance needed to overcome them. The lives of those who wear the SCDF uniform proudly, such as their vivacious vibes, innovative spirit and creativity, are also hardly known to the public.

Second, it is challenging to develop engaging public education messages in the areas of fire safety, first aid and community first response. The public and netizens do not always engage well with officious and serious messages that seek to change behaviour.

To overcome these challenges, SCDF’s corporate communications department embarked on a radical plan. A plan that leveraged the dynamic realm of social media to reshape the public perception of SCDF and provide public education messages in novel and highly engaging ways.

The three pillars of SCDF’s social media strategy

Over the years, SCDF’s social media strategy has been honed into three distinct pillars – social media as a newsroom, “trend-jacking”, and creative content production.

1. Social media as a newsroom

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One of the posts on the largest LPG fire in Singapore’s history (left), and a
post on the complex rescue of a driver from an overturned tipper truck (right).

Social media is used to boldly push the style of public sector communication to the masses. This is demonstrated through one of SCDF’s social media functions as a newsroom, providing round-the-clock “live” coverage of breaking news on prominent and large-scale SCDF operations.

This proactive and aggressive approach offers exclusive and close-up insights of the ongoing operations, thereby giving the public a greater appreciation of SCDF’s strategy and mitigation efforts that are typically out of bounds to the media and the public.

Powerful visuals in the form of videos and photos as captured at scenes by SCDF’s in-house team of photographers-cum-videographers, and descriptive texts outlining the unique challenges and dangers of the incidents, allow the public a deeper appreciation of SCDF’s life-saving efforts. A close relationship with the mainstream media also provides extensive outreach of  SCDF content when the media syndicates the posts, photos and videos onto their respective online, print and broadcast platforms.

2. Trend-jacking

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SCDF’s take on the GoJek “kidnap” incident that gripped and divided netizens in early 2019 (left),
and SCDF’s participation in the viral online #BottleCapChallenge (right).

The hallmark and signature of SCDF’s online engagement is undoubtedly its memes and witty takes on local and global viral online trends. By “trend-jacking” or swiftly riding on the latest viral trends that netizens are engaged in, and interspersing them with SCDF’s very own public education messages in light-hearted and palatable formats, has enabled SCDF to become a natural and vogue persona of the online community, instead of being seen as a public sector agency trying to disseminate its officious statements or advisories online.

An example of a trend-jacking post was SCDF’s take on the online #TetrisChallenge, a movement that saw various emergency services worldwide arranging their vehicles, equipment and personnel in a flat lay format. This SCDF’s post was very well-received by netizens and was featured in multiple publications, even in The Guardian, the world’s third most-read English online newspaper in the world.

3. Creative content production

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An in-house production to educate the public on the types of non-emergency calls (left), and an in-house festive season video displaying the various talent of SCDF’s staff to profile the softer side of the organisation (right).

SCDF’s social media showcases a rich collection of videos that feature the multi-facets of the Life Saving Force. These are in the form of festive videos, short animated clips and eye-catching infographics. Such videos are fully conceptualised, choreographed, produced and edited in-house by SCDF’s multimedia production unit under its corporate communications department.

 

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A creative collaboration with SGAG for an emergency medical services campaign (left), and a light-hearted series of videos produced in-house featuring SCDF staff role playing to debunk the myths of home remedies (right).

SCDF also collaborates with popular and vogue local content creators such as SGAG, Bonda Bedah and Mak Temah (BBMT), King Kong Media Production, and local celebrities such as Michelle Chong to extend the reach of SCDF’s public education messages and campaigns, for instance in its emergency medical services campaign.

Positive outcomes

The success of SCDF’s social media strategy and execution is reflected in the overwhelmingly positive sentiments from netizens. Its content is also regularly shared by local politicians, including prominent government leaders, mainstream and online media – all complimenting SCDF for its operational efficiency as well as its online creativity and wit.

SCDF’s top viral posts were all organic in their reach without a single advertising dollar spent to promote them – this attests to the relevance, creativity and timeliness of its content.

Despite having a modest size of followers on its social media platforms as compared to other brands and agencies, SCDF’s social media punches above its weight in terms of its rate of engagement (RoE). SCDF’s Facebook alone has an average RoE of about 4,500 and about 30,000 impressions daily.

Ultimately, the value of SCDF’s social media goes beyond metrics and numbers. It is about winning the hearts and minds of both the public and the very people whose blood, sweat and sacrifices make the organisation what it is: The Life Saving Force of Singapore.

 

The author is Captain Adam Osman, corporate communications department, Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The main role of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is to provide firefighting, rescue and emergency medical services; mitigate hazardous material incidents; and formulate, implement and enforce regulations on fire safety and civil defence shelter matters.