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Question: Can a fire department or fire service organization create effective alliances and sponsorships with the private sector or other supportive agencies?
Answer: Yes, and it’s getting better all the time. Tune in to the rest of this column for the details.
My January column explored the environment for alliance development and the reasons why it is becoming so popular. This column will review the basics of effective alliance creation and implementation. As I noted last month, this is nothing new for virtually all fire departments. We all have mutual aid agreements and contractual obligations with other jurisdictions for a variety of services. But the environment is getting better for the formation of strong, mutually beneficial alliances with the private sector as well as other non-profit organizations.
First, here are a few new observations for you to consider. Recently, in a monthly bulletin I receive called IEG Sponsorship Report; an entire section highlighted a growing trend of municipal governments to partner with private corporations. The projection for private sponsorship of municipal and local governments in 2004 was $272 million (IEG Quarterly Report 3Q 2004). Some examples noted are GM supplying cars for San Diego lifeguards and the activation of a sponsorship by Snapple for the City of New York. In fact, this deal was consummated through New York City’s newly appointed first chief marketing officer.
Second, I noticed an article in the Money Section of USA Today titled “Firefighter-Themed Items on Fire” (USA Today, Oct. 18, 2004). The article noted the rising interest in all things “firefighter.” Among the things “on fire” were Firefighter Brand Products, FX’s “Rescue Me” TV series and the release of Disney’s film “Ladder 49.” We all noticed that during the presidential election, the two candidates made a point to appear to be supportive of firefighters, even appearing with them on TV on many occasions.
This is an interesting progression of events. While I can’t wait to comment on this new marketing environment for the fire and emergency services in an upcoming column, the point is that the public has never been in a more supportive stance for the fire service community. This means that the opportunity to form alliances and sponsorships with other diverse organizations and the private sector has never been better. So how do you do this in such a great environment? First, have a plan.
Alliance development is a part of the marketing/public affairs plan. It’s important that alliance development become part of the department’s overall marketing plan. It is a part of the Relationship Sector (“who”) of Marketing ICS. When the marketing or public affairs plan is broken out of the departmental strategic plan, there should be a section on alliance development and sponsorships. Then it’s a matter of who, what, how and when.
A quick point about definitions: I use the terms “sponsorship” and “alliance development” interchangeably at times, but I believe there is a difference. I prefer the term “alliance development” because it denotes a long-term progression of the relationship. It means that this relationship is going to move forward because both organizations (the fire department and the ally firm or organization) have decided that they have enough in common to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Also, the term “development” denotes that you are going to grow or build something together. It has all of the earmarks of good marketing: exchange for mutual gain. The next step is to consider the universe of possible allies.