Determine Your Target Audience
The first step is to sit down with your newest generation of volunteers. It is important to find out what attracted them to volunteer with the fire department. Younger generations are more connected to social media and new technological advances. The ways to capture attention of the younger population is much different than 20 years ago. It is vital to understand your target audience and what draws their attention. Create a focus group with existing or prospective volunteers to develop a new brand identity, which speaks to the interests of the next generation of volunteers.
Brand Your Fire Department
The term “branding” is something you may have heard of before but do not quite understand its purpose. It is much more than just a symbol or a name. It sums up the message you want the community to think or feel about your company. Build a strong brand for your fire company. Identify your distinctive niche and determine the personality you want your fire company to convey. We have developed and implemented Bristol Fire Company’s “You have the Power” campaign, which reminds the community of the steps they must take to volunteer. This defines the company and influences the community.
Identify Media Opportunity in Your Geographic Area
It is necessary to complete an audit of the local newspapers, radio stations, and television channels that are available to your department’s geographic area. High visibility public relations in local newspapers and media outlets are helpful to educate the public about volunteer opportunities and fire safety initiatives. How can you use these local media outlets effectively for positive publicity?
Get Your Good News Out
It is one thing to have recruitment programs, community events and volunteer opportunities. But, it does not work to its greatest potential unless the public is aware of these events. Write press releases before events to get the word out! These press releases should include the date, time, location, and important information about the event. Send the press releases to all local newspapers to increase awareness and plan for high attendance at community events. Following an event, a post-publicity write up is an exceptional way to recap the event and inform the community of the outcome. If you want media at the event, a media alert should be sent to local television stations. These should include what the media will see at the event.
Maintain an Organized Website
Do you have a website? An organized and well designed website is useful to attract potential volunteers. The website must be easy to navigate. Information about volunteer opportunities and recruitment events should be listed on the home page. This is the perfect place to post testimonials and video clips to further promote volunteering.
Use Social Media Effectively
Facebook and Twitter, when used in the proper form, are an excellent way to get fire safety public service announcements to the public as well as recruitment opportunities. It is important to have video testimonials from current firefighters. Posting these videos to Facebook will allow people to get first hand information on what it is actually like to volunteer in a fire department. Whenever there are activities within the fire department, post to Facebook. If there are opportunities to get involved, post them to Facebook. Social media is your friend!
Hold Local Recruitment Events
What community events exist that you can have a booth and a presence? Get involved in these events! Create a booth display that will encourage people to inquire about volunteering at the fire department. Any opportunity to remind the public of the importance of volunteerism is extremely important. All of these options in the community will support recruitment efforts and increase the presence of volunteerism.
Create Recruitment Programs in Local High Schools
If current recruitment opportunities do not exist in your local high school, open that door. Make morning announcements at the high school and organize assemblies to target the teenage audience and encourage them to volunteer. Advertise in the high school newspaper. Fire departments should sponsor and hold service learning days to give high school students hands on experience with firefighting. It is proven to be an effective way to recruit young volunteers and allow high school students to make a difference at a young age. One fire departments holds a service learning day annually at the end of May aimed at teaching students the importance of community involvement, while another holds talks annually during “Back to School Night” to educate parents and students alike of the opportunities that come with volunteering. It also represents a chance to recruit young people who will help continue the legacy of their volunteer fire companies.
Advertise in Creative Ways
Look at interesting venues for advertising. A recruitment ad on movie theater slides is an excellent way to draw the attention of the community. Cable advertising is a great way to regionalize your buy and save money, while only targeting your local area. Click-Thru advertising on Facebook is a way to use social media for effective advertising. Inquire about free or reduced space with your local newspapers.
Seek a Professional
Fire companies are a vital resource to communities. The sacrifice they make everyday to protect people from danger is admirable and noble. There is a sense of satisfaction working for a fire department. Because of their busy schedules and their mindset of saving lives and preventing fires, they may not have the time for marketing and recruitment. How do you know when to seek outside help? Look at the people within your department. Is there an untapped marketing wiz who would excel in developing and implementing communication ideas to improve recruitment? If not, it is time to look outside at resources that are local, accessible, understand the concept of recruitment and marketing for fire departments, recognize budgetary limitations, and that are enjoyable to work with. It is important that you ask to see samples of their work that they have done for other fire companies to see if their marketing strategies are right for you!