Over the last year I am constantly struck by the lack of of understanding between two simple terms: "marketing and sales." This has everything to do with the way many of us go about gaining financial support, especially in the very difficult economic conditions we all face. Because the history of the US Fire Service is based on suppression, we sometimes have a reaction mentality when faced with a problem. But even when this happens on the fireground, we do consistently plan in adance. We do have pre-fire plans and incident command systems when the alarm comes in. Still, our mentality seems to reside in the "respond" mode when it comes to the future growth of the department.
Sales / Fire Fighting
I would equate a pure response mode to selling. When we see the local economy "going south" we circle the wagons, put a quick ICS model together, and try to sell our local government leaders and the public on the need to maintain our services. When we get to this point we are playing catch-up. We know what happens in any fire incident. We are always late because the fire has broken out before they calll the fire department. Selling at best is a stop-gap gain. It is short-term and it's late. Sometimes it works and most of the time it doesn't. And, even when it does work, the impact on the public is questonable. What happens the next time? Did we learn our lesson so we can ensure a better future financially?
Marketing / Fire Prevention
A marketing approach is the care and feeding of the entire public safety system negating the need to sell. It is like fire prevention (another area which needs constant support and growth). The best fire is the one that never breaks out. The best question about your department's financial need is the one that is rarely asked because the answer is observed daily regardless of the economy. That is called good marketing. Do you have a marketing plan?