Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting to know you ...

Getting to know all about you ...

Ever since that Rogers and Hammerstein hit was first performed in the play The King and I, it has become a favorite, and it should have been named the anthem for PIOs everywhere. After all, didn't we establish that stories have to be first and foremost about people? And, how else can you tell the story about a group or organization without getting to know the members?

That's what happened while a coworker and I were preparing for the opening of a newly rebuilt fire station just outside of Tampa. We had heard stories about a retired Capitan who the crews respected, but it wasn't until we actually headed down to the fire house that we got to know the story.

It turns out that this retired Captain Billy Riley had been a mentor to the officers in the county's fire service, and on a February day in 2006, he did something which moved him to the level of legend. While responding to a call of a child on a bicycle struck by a car, Captain Riley made a quick assessment of the situation and selflessly crawled under the car to the severely injured child. Mustering all of the strength he could, he did a push up that lifted the car a few inches off the road, allowing two other firefighters to pull the boy to safety.

The scene is memorialized in the Firehouse Subs shop just down the street from the new fire station. There, on the wall, is a mural depicting that moment.

So touched by Captain Riley's efforts and his tireless leadership, the crew had a flag made, calling Station No. 7 the House that Billy Riley Built.

With that understanding, it has been easy to craft talking points for the dignitaries and pitches to the reporters. The new fire house isn't just bricks, mortar and bunks - it's a place where heroes work, waiting for the call to spring into action to maybe just save a life.

There's a lot to be said about that kind of story.

Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida

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