It’s no wonder that with the constant barrage of marketing strategies on social media platforms that certain members of the fire service would find a way to capitalize on this resourceful tool. In 2017, we saw a significant rise in third party training groups on our social media sites. This has become a playground for fire service instructors to seek control of potential training outlets and find creative ways to market their programs.
These have manifested themselves in the form of individuals, as well as teams of professionals, who are packaging their training, branding themselves and publicly touting their abilities as a training resource. The world of social media becomes their office.
Perhaps in some cases this is presented as nothing more than a platform for opinion and/or an outlet for shared resources. In other cases, it is a more formal means of marketing their courses. The reality of social media is that every single one of us has the ability to spread word of our expertise to a captive audience that reaches into the thousands. But does that mean we are a subject matter expert?
As a connoisseur of knowledge and training resources, how do you maneuver the ambiguous terrain and decide who you “follow” and of whom you should have a healthy skepticism? We live in a profession of risk and complexity. The adage of “knowledge is power” may be poisoned by imposters.
Let’s be honest, we are all “following” certain pages and individuals who proclaim to be experts in their field of study. I personally follow them because of the controversy and chaos they espouse on their sites. It’s the “train wreck” mentality. I know I shouldn’t watch, but I’m afraid I’ll miss something exciting, and perhaps entertaining, if I don’t! Remember, even bad publicity is still publicity. Are you prepared to read between the lines and set aside the drama to find the legitimate diamond in the rough? Your professional reputation may be compromised if you ‘screw it up’.
While there’s no real magic to the madness, the process of educated consumption can prove to be daunting. However, without a doubt, you do have a professional obligation to ensure that you’re diligent in the choices you make when adopting a consumer based training decision that will impact your department and community.
Here are a few helpful tips when vetting a visiting, for-hire, instructor:
- Access your professional organizations to review content.
- Validate the instructor’s credentials and professional experiences.
- Public opinion can help….or hurt! Use your network of professional advisors to assist in researching the quality of the training and the instructor.
- If an instructor isn’t willing to share their lesson plans, learning objectives, and resources…well…you should be skeptical.
- Make sure the instructor and his/her content meet the needs of your department’s training objectives.
- Ask for and check reputable references. Don’t get ‘wowed’ by a charismatic personality who has no proven track record.
- A bright star will always shine, but not without substance. Quality content, programs and instructors will invariably stand on their own merit.
- Don’t just go with the grain. Reading endorsements on social media sites isn’t the same as doing the research yourself.
There is indeed a great deal of value in utilizing the social stream of knowledge so long as you’re making well informed/educated decisions along the journey. I like to coin it the “Knowledge Victory!” I hope that by following some of these easy steps you’ll welcome instructors into your department who are rock-stars and elevate the level of learning and training for your team.