Initiating a Marketing Planning Process in the Norfolk Department of Fire and Paramedical Services

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By Edward L. Senter, Jr.

Today's fire departments are increasingly threatened by intergovernmental competition, consolidation, and privatization. If a municipal fire department is to survive during uncertain political and economic times, a comprehensive marketing plan must be employed to improve public image and build community support. The problem was the Norfolk Department of Fire and Paramedical Services (NFPS) did not have a comprehensive marketing plan.

The purpose of this research project was to explore the meaning and benefits of fire department marketing, and identify the steps that should be taken by the NFPS to develop and implement a marketing plan. Historical and descriptive research methodologies were used to answer the following questions:

  1. What is marketing, and how does it apply to the fire service?
  2. What are the benefits of fire department marketing programs?
  3. What are the elements of an effective marketing plan?
  4. What strategies can be employed to market the services of a municipal fire department?

The procedures used to complete this research included a literature review of fire service journals and marketing textbooks, a semistructured interview process with local marketing professionals, and a fire department marketing survey of NFPS chief officers.

The results of this research presented distinct implications for the NFPS including the use of a marketing plan to improve public image and build community support, potential pitfalls of a marketing campaign in relation to other municipal departments, and the need to incorporate customer service as an organizational value.

Recommendations were made to guide the NFPS in the development and implementation of a marketing plan. These recommendations included changing to a customer service philosophy, developing a strategic plan, assigning marketing responsibilities to one individual, forming a committee to develop a marketing plan, ensuring management support for the plan, and evaluating the plan after implementation.