Fire Service Marketing Management: The Emergence Of A New Discipline – Part 1

Ben May explains why fire departments are finding it necessary to better manage their marketing efforts and the image they present to their customers.


I wish my wife, my mother, everyone who has ever asked me why I do what I do could see the humanity, the sympathy, the sadness of these eyes, because in them is the reason I continue to be a firefighter." Dennis Smith, Report from Engine Co. 82 Most people really do not know what we do...


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Internal Marketing

Successful internal marketing means dynamic and effective external marketing. The education and intelligence level of firefighters and officers continues to increase. With more education comes individual leadership and empowerment at all levels. This means less and less of the "command and control" leadership and more of the democratic, flat organizational approach.

While this kind of leadership does not apply to an emergency incident, it does apply to 98% of all other organizational activities. This means that the input and leadership of our most important resource: our firefighters. The firefighters are "close to the customer" 24 hour a day. Information from this source comprises the very basis for marketing intelligence.

Relationship Management

Consider the number of overlapping relationships in our "Fire & Life Safety" protection system. These relationships drive our ability to get any job done or to achieve any outcome. Such stakeholders include firefighters, officers, elected officials, collateral agencies (water and police departments, public works, and building departments), union groups and regulatory agencies. How we manage these relationships is, in many ways, the single most important aspect of any marketing approach.

Next: "Selling" The Fire Service


Ben May has over 15 years of experience creating and applying the discipline of fire service marketing management. He has been a firefighter, fire commissioner and marketing consultant to the fire service, and is a graduate of the Montgomery County, MD, Public Service Training Academy. May has over 25 years of leadership experience at senior corporate officer levels in marketing and sales in the U.S. and internationally. Currently, he is responsible for business development at Walt Disney World's Epcot. May was fire commissioner in Woodinville, WA, from 1994 to 1998. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in public affairs and received a master's degree in international communication from American University. May is a member of the Society of Executive Fire Officers and a trustee of the Education Foundation of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association.