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...

Another example deals with the funding of the department. In this case the strategy might have a number of parts:

  • Create a formal presentation for elected officials who can support the request for funding.
  • Utilize the good relationship between the fire chief and elected officials to explain the situation and the reasons for the need in one-on-one meetings.
  • Create a public awareness campaign through the media, institutions and businesses, noting the various services of the department and how they help the community.
  • Create a philanthropic foundation for businesses to support the fire department.
  • Create an alliance with local businesses to target childhood obesity with firefighters as role models.
  • Submit grants to the federal government for financial support through the Fire Act.

Creating Action Plans

The action plan portion of the marketing plan defines the specific steps that the department takes to achieve the objectives. An example of a part of an action plan might include the following as it relates to creating an awareness campaign for smoke alarms:

  • Engine 12 will deliver 25 smoke alarms in the Glen Park neighborhood on December 12th and report specific alarm placement and any feedback from neighborhood citizens.
  • Engine 14 will conduct 10 inspections of homes and businesses within the next two weeks.

Reporting and Feedback

The action portion of the marketing plan always requires a simple reporting and feedback loop for two reasons. First, with so many competing needs in any department, it is important to make certain that the action is taken. Second, feedback and comments from citizens provide the DNA for modifying and improving the plan, making it more attuned to market needs. As we noted before, needs are always changing. This is really one of the primary returns on investment of any marketing plan.

The marketing plan is really where the rubber meets the road in showing the public what we do and who we are. The main thing is to take some kind of action and see how fast the plan and its effectiveness will yield results of which you can be proud.

Please contact me at for suggestions and support as you create your department’s plan.

BEN MAY, a Firehouse contributing editor, has been developing the discipline of fire and emergency services marketing management for more than 15 years. He has been a firefighter for Montgomery County, MD, Fire and Rescue and fire commissioner for the Woodinville, WA, Fire and Life Safety District. May holds a bachelor's degree in public affairs from the University of Oklahoma and a master's degree in international communication from the American University in Washington, D.C. He has been a vice president of two international marketing firms over the last 25 years, and now is responsible for business development at Walt Disney World.