Fire Service Marketing 3.0 – The Next Steps

The accelerated speed of change is no secret. We see its effects in the fire service: the way we do business and the issues we face.  The recent IAFC paper, Taking Responsibility for a Positive Perception , highlighted the marketing challenges coming at...

We are entering the values-driven era of marketing.  That is why we are in such a great position to “move the ball forward” for the fire service. Every member of the fire service should memorize that IAFC paper! We can now couple the emotional loyalty and branding of the fire service with value-based human spirit marketing.  Instead of dealing with the citizens as consumers and “the public,” we need to see them as individual human beings with minds, hearts and spirits.  Who else sees this everyday but the firefighter? Why? When we arrive at an incident, especially with families and children in harm’s way, we think of our own families. We are in a special position to understand marketing that involves the human spirit. As Rick Lasky noted in his book, Pride and Ownership: “There are Fortune 500 companies that would kill for the marketing advantage the American fire service has.”2 As the IAFC paper notes: We need to deal now with the deterioration in our reputation so that we can strengthen the latent advantage we have for the future.

Kotler notes that the [citizens] and consumers are searching for organizations and companies that address their deepest needs for social, economic and environmental justice in their mission, vision and values. Our citizens and consumers are searching for us! The mission, vision and values of the fire service have always reflected “Marketing 3.0.” The question now is what our strategy should be as we move forward. There is no question that the foundation of our marketing is the meaning of our profession and the value proposition we provide.  This is the very essence of the fire service: the values that motivated each of us to become firefighters. Our personal mission and our brand mission must be inseparable and the same. Many fire service organizations are waking up to the very needs outlined in the IAFC paper. The Vision 20/20 Project is pointing the way to our future.


Actions We Can Take Now: How Vision 20/20 Contributes to Fire Service Marketing 3.0

The Vision 20/20 Project has been at the forefront of progressive change in the fire service. In fact, Vision 20/20’s tagline is “bridging the gap from yesterday to tomorrow.” Five key strategies have been developed through gap analysis over the last five years. The strategies are: fire prevention advocacy; marketing; culture; technology; and codes and standards. The platform of Vision 20/20 defines fire service Marketing 3.0.  Specifically, Community Risk Reduction (CRR), adopted from an initial model in the United Kingdom, has begun to blossom in jurisdictions around the country through specific training modules (contact Vision 20/20 for details if you wish to establish a program in your community).


Community Risk Reduction

In a nut shell, Community Risk Reduction is a program that establishes in-home inspections with the ability to determine other potential hazards, as well as the well-being of the family and the integrity of the home. Most important, it establishes collaboration with the community and the citizens.  The result is one of the most effective values for our marketing. The citizen can become a partner in his/her own safety. The Vision 20/20 initiatives, coupled with the IAFC reputation management paper provide an amazing road to ensure the long-term safety of our citizens as well as their financial and political support.  The key, of course, is execution. All the resources and tools are now available. Let’s use them to create and sustain our own future as we protect the future of our citizens.



  • 1Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit, Kotler, Kartajaya, Setiawan, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2010
  • 2Pride and Ownership: A Firefighter’s Love of the Job, Rick Lasky, Pennwell, 2006


See Ben Live! Ben May will be presenting "Strategic Brand Development for Fire and Rescue Services" at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, July 23 - 27.

BEN MAY, a contributing editor, has been developing the discipline of marketing management for the fire and emergency services for more than 25 years. He has been a firefighter for Montgomery County, MD, Fire and Rescue and fire commissioner for the Woodinville, WA, Fire and Rescue.