John R. Kowalski Integrative Marketing Fusion

Part 3 – What Every Department Needs (but nobody’s doing it)

How is your department moving forward? If you’re doing the same things, expect the same results.

Quick recap… In part 1 we talked about the building blocks of marketing while in part 2 we continued with engaging your community and the value you bring. Let’s keep going.

The thought of marketing is something new, but it’s proven… I’ve proven it works with engagement and support from the community, with a renewed sense of pride and belonging among members and a defined focus on where we are going.

Some results from initiating a marketing program about 18 months ago:

  • Updated department shield – Station signage, t-shirts, hats, stickers, kids coloring books all with our shield
  • Events such as our monthly Bingo & BBQ pack our community center (holds about 175 people) and raised funds for the department
  • A community mailing has increased donations
  • Active grant submissions are resulting in additional funding
  • Facebook – Followers from 0 to 638, 1,038 post engagements (likes/shares) for last month
  • Website – 842 users with the most popular pages being volunteer opportunities and wildfire preparedness
  • Membership growth from 7 to 22
  • Community support!

I’m in on this marketing thing, now what?

The openness to trying something new to better your department and how you serve the community is the first step.

Now… go back to part 1 and really think about the examples but for your department. Put it down on paper. Review. Revise. Keep going through this cycle till it feels right then review with your officers or membership for their thoughts. Review part 2 again… jot down any notes you may have and how you think they might work with your community.

Outline your risk areas and how you can help reduce them. Now marry your part 1 efforts with those risk areas… map out a plan. For marketing it’s all about consistency and repetition… with your message, your visuals, the colors you use… everything.

Grab your calendar and map out the weeks. What are you going to communicate and when? Tie those items into events, holidays, community gatherings, etc. Then… how do you deliver the messages? What works based on your community (audience)? What do you think will work?

It doesn’t have to be perfect; it has to be authentic and a dedicated effort to make things better. Show your value. Tell your community what you do, as most really don’t know.

I know the “how am I going to do this?” question is in your mind also. You need someone to write, plan and execute. Are one of your members marketing-savvy? What about a member spouse or child? Is there a community member or a college nearby? A retired teacher? Delegate. You can’t do everything, and this role doesn’t need to be a firefighter or emergency medical responder. Find a person who can run these efforts with checking in with you prior to anything being published. This person is an integral part of your department and should be thought of as that.

I know I’m just scratching the surface. Take your time and be methodical on how you approach this. Hope this helps give you a new perspective on marketing and some pointers to head in the right direction.

Marketing – it’s the right thing to do for your department and community.

Part 2 – What Every Department Needs (but nobody’s doing it)

In part 1 we talked about what marketing is and the basic elements. If you missed part 1, no worries, you can catch up here.

To continue the discussion, I am a firm believer in marketing for any and all organizations – even fire and emergency service organizations.

And depending on what you look to accomplish, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Most marketing is spent on expensive advertising and trade show participation, but we can leave that for the companies with budgets and complex strategies. For fire halls I see basic trends across the board that all of us are challenged with: Recruitment and retention, and fundraising.

It’s no big mystery that if those two challenges are met, things would be better all-around for the department. Enough people to respond to challenges at all hours of the day… improved ISO rating… better community service… NFPA complaint equipment to keep members safe and an incentive for members.

Now how does marketing help with those things? Before we continue, look back at part 1 for a quick review.

Bottom line is helping and providing value for your community. Both funding and recruitment/retention benefit your community. And your community is the central point of everything.

By igniting your community… getting them to understand and then to get them involved are the first steps. That leads to community events. An open house, a demonstration, an educational program… a reason to bring them together. Once together share what you do. Educate them on the number of calls you respond to and your current membership. Show them turnout gear and SCBAs and share the expense of them. Get them to understand the value and to take a vested interest. It IS in their best interest to have a functional fire department for when their time of need might come.

By educating them and showing them the value can lead to new members who would like to be trained. It can also lead to new members who are simply support or administrative help. Or what about someone who is retired but can write? Grants, perhaps? Everyone who is willing and who has a desire to help make their community better has a place at the fire hall. You just may need to demonstrate that. Show them. Ask for what you need.

The stronger your community involvement and support, the stronger you will be as a fire department, and in turn, the stronger you will be at protecting your community. It’s relational. One feeds the other and you can’t do it successfully alone.

Keep thinking about this… jot down notes… and stay tuned for the 3rd and final post in this series. And if you can’t control it and want to jump on this immediately, send me a note and let’s chat on the phone. I can help guide you to successful marketing!

Part 1 – What Every Department Needs (but nobody’s doing it)

Now before you think marketing is a term for businesses and that it’s expensive hear me out and hang with me.

Marketing is an overarching method to communicate a message to a defined audience to elicit a specific action or feeling. Now in English… Who are you? Who are you talking to? What message do you want to get across? What do you want them to do? How are you delivering it?

For example:

Who are you?

Fire Department X provides exceptional fire and emergency medical response services to the community of XX.

Who are you talking to?

The XX community members.

To go a step further… they are made up of approximately 50% retirees, 30% young families of which 40% work in agriculture. The community is also experiencing new construction growth.

NOTE: The more information you know about who you’re talking to (your audience), the more effective things will be.

What message do you want to get across?

That Fire Department X is in need of new members to serve the growing needs of the community.

What do you want them to do?

Visit our new member information page on the website ( or stop by one of our weekly training sessions held Tuesday nights at 6:30-9:30pm to learn more about how your talents can help your community.

How are you delivering it?

Through our website, Facebook page, posted flyers and member word-of-mouth.

Note: Think of who you are talking to (your audience) and make sure how you are delivering the message are the right way to send information. For example, if a large population visits a popular breakfast place, maybe communicate it there or help serve coffee and deliver the message. If your audience isn’t computer or technology savvy don’t spend the energy in posting on Facebook.

Definitely some things to think about.

Introducing the BabaFire Podcast

Introducing BabaFire, the premier firehall marketing podcast, run by yours truly. Here we’re going to talk about all aspects of marketing for your firehall. How to develop a plan, how to prioritize and how to get things done without being a marketing expert or having the time yourself.

Sit back and grab your favorite beverage and hear where we’re starting from and where we’re going. All in the effort to help get your firehall to the next level with things like membership and recruitment, fundraising and grant writing, community education and interaction and more!


BabaFire platform launches to improve fire service marketing

Chattanooga, Tennessee – March 12, 2019 – Babacita, a fire and emergency service marketing agency, announced BabaFire, an online learning platform to assist volunteer fire and emergency service organizations with their marketing components.

BabaFire brings value and experience to any organization. Learning modules include videos, written instructions and commentary along with tips, tricks and downloadable templates. The goal of BabaFire is to bring a positive learning experience to arm departments with the knowledge and tools necessary to elevate them to the next level and to empower them for marketing success.

“My experience includes my rural volunteer fire department to help raise the level of public perception, interaction and overall department marketing. Foundational marketing aspects can be incorporated into a planned program to not only improve the image, but also the fundraising and recruitment activities to help a department on a variety of levels,” states John Kowalski of Babacita.

Learning modules of BabaFire include

  • Department Image & Priorities
  • Developing an Effective Marketing Program
  • Recruitment – Now and the Future
  • Developing a Public Education Program
  • Raising Funds & Grant Writing
  • Event Planning with Purpose
  • Chain of Command, Teamwork & Conflict Resolution
A firefighter wearing a hat and coat smiles at the camera.

The BabaFire program is backed by a guarantee of success through personal consultation to ensure department satisfaction. “I believe in this program and through the feedback I have received with senior-level fire and emergency service personnel,” Kowalski continues. “This is the beginning of BabaFire and as additional modules are added, those purchasing the Complete program will get those with no extra expense.”

“Having served in two combination fire departments back in the ‘70’s & 80’s, we never even thought of marketing/branding the department. Today, there are sound opportunities to cultivate a strong, positive image for your department; both for the public and members. With John’s experience in both marketing and the fire service, he is able to provide you with the guidance necessary, to help market your department,” states Steve Greene, founder of Dalmatian Productions and the host of 5-Alarm Task Force podcast.

Individual modules cost $15.99 with the complete offering at $99.99.

About Babacita:

A consultancy incorporating empowerment and improvement for fire and emergency service organizations. As a volunteer firefighter and professional marketers, we understand the challenges that face volunteer organizations and work with departments to guide solutions to all marketing programs and community engagement. Visit for more information.