Create an Effective Marketing Plan for Your Department Now: Here's How

There has been so much written about plans over the years that the very thought of it can cause a fire officer’s eyes to glaze over. On the other hand, think about it this way: Would you allow your firefighters to attack a fire in your jurisdiction...

The first meeting should include the chief of department with a clear mandate to establish the marketing mechanism and create and execute the plan. This means that the chief creates the expectation throughout the organization that the marketing initiative must be created and achieved. This may involve explaining and educating the department about the reasons why the department should launch a marketing initiative. He or she must then put a follow-up mechanism in place to monitor the progress and to overcome barriers to achieving the marketing goals. These barriers include such things as resource allocation and officer and line resistance.

The following outline notes the elements of a marketing action plan:

Strategic Direction

You can create strategic direction from senior management’s guidance in combination with the view of the committee and other departmental and community needs.

  • Review the strategic plan if one exists
  • Create a mission statement
  • Create a vision statement


The analysis process can provide you with the critical, rich information with which to develop and fine-tune your objectives.

  • Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities and Threats) analysis with an emphasis on marketing as well as departmental direction from a strategic plan. Where are your strengths and supporting organizations in the community, such as the businesses, institutions and political support?
  • What is your relationship with the media? Outline all media sources and points of contact.
  • Outline the codes and mandates for which you are responsible. Do you wish to lower your ISO rating or become accredited? Where do you stand in terms of numbers of quality of inspections? Do you wish to conduct more pre-fire plans?
  • Review citizen phone calls or inquiries as well as customer satisfaction cards if you have them.
  • Review inspection reports from businesses to assess critical educational needs.
  • Review call reports to determine areas of need in various part of the community. This will include analyzing runs and incidents by location and community demographics to determine any patterns.
  • If possible, create and conduct a simple survey: internal departmental and external community. The survey should focus on the department’s relationships with its members and its citizens in achieving satisfaction with the department’s services.
  • Review target hazards in you community as well as the threat of natural and man-made disasters
  • Review financial, human and capital resources needs. Do you need a new station, new training facilities, new apparatus or new firefighters?
  • Map out all key departmental relationships (note each customer segment such as businesses, schools, citizen groups, elected officials, neighborhoods, etc.) in the community according to quality and perception.

Creating Objectives

You create this part of the plan based on the combination of departmental goals and the critical needs of the community. The objectives must be qualified according to the following criteria: are they strategic, measurable, achievable and consistent (SMAC) with departmental policy. Most important, will they make a significant impact and difference in the mission of the department in achieving its mission for the community. Finally, the objectives must be directly within the department’s responsibility. For example, the city of Orlando, FL, consistently experiences a high incidence of pedestrian accidents. While the fire department can play a part in decreasing these incidents through a joint emergency services strategy, it cannot have the sole responsibility for achieving the result.

Examples of simple SMAC objectives:

  • Decrease fire loss by X% in the X area of our city by X date
  • Increase department funding by X$ by X date
  • Make certain smoke detectors are in X% of homes by X date
  • Pass home sprinkler legislation for new construction in the next 36 months
  • Ensure that the city supports and passes this year’s annual budget

Creating Strategies

Providing a general road map, strategies are simply the means to achieve the objectives. For example, in the case of the fire loss problem, prevention will need to drill down to determine the cause(s) of the problem and determine the best approach to reduce it. Let’s assume it is kitchen appliances left on the stove. The strategy might be as follows:

  • Create a public awareness campaign in X area of the city to tell citizens not to be careless with their appliances.