The title of “First Responder” evokes images of brave men and women that go out of their way to make the world a better place. In many ways, these individuals are cut from a different cloth, and because of that, recruiting these individuals presents more difficulties than other government positions.
Recruiting first responders can be an ongoing challenge. For many municipalities, the challenge lies with both the position itself, as well as outdated approaches to recruiting that simply are not working as well with recent grads or qualified candidates.
There is a good chance that to effectively recruit police officers, firefighters, and EMTs, an overhaul in strategy is needed. Putting up a booth at the high school career fair or community event just won’t cut it anymore. If you’re looking at reshaping your first responder recruiting strategies, the Your Business Marketer team is here to help.
Recruiting IS Sales!
Before diving into a few specific strategies, we have to establish that recruiting is sales. There is no way around it. You are (or will be) selling these positions against other companies, regions, or government agencies, and supporting growth in this sector.
Nail Your Pitch
Just like any good sales effort, you need to put your best foot (and message) forward as you approach recruitment. You don’t have to be the Wolf of Wall Street, but you still need to be able to sell the position when individuals express interest. The good news is that anyone, even the most introverted team members, can be great at sales. In today’s sales and marketing environment, face-to-face conversations are important, but so are digital approaches, such as social media engagement.
Creating a pitch is nothing more than being able to tell someone what makes being a first responder great. The beauty of this is that your team members all have experience. Sure, the job may be stressful, but there are rewarding components that will appeal to anyone.
In the sales world, practice makes perfect. Have your team practice, write and rewrite your job summaries or posts, and get to where talking about it feels effortless.
Remember: Everyone On Your Team is a Recruiter
If your team hasn’t been helping with recruiting, you could be seriously missing out on an easy win. While it may only be a select few that are going through the hiring process with candidates, each team member has a unique perspective on the position and can be a great asset to your first responder recruiting campaign.
You will find that most departments only send senior team members to recruiting events. While they certainly can bring value to the conversation about career paths, advancement opportunities, and more, they might be several years removed from training. This is where it can be advantageous to have your entire team, even newbs, help with recruitment.
Marketing Strategies for Recruiting First Responders
Marketing to potential recruits is not all that different from any other growth plan. You have something — in this case the position — and you want to create a message that is both appealing and targeted. To do this requires a solid understanding of your market and a few best practices.
Invest in Online Engagement
Online engagement is critical to successful marketing. Departments that figure out where their audience is spending time online will be more successful than those that ignore digital marketing.
Social media channels are a great way to highlight open positions and tell the story of what it actually takes to be a first responder. Those new to marketing on social media will be tempted to stick to platforms that they are familiar with, like Facebook and LinkedIn. Don’t ignore other platforms, even local ones, as your audience will almost certainly be in more than one place.
The average person has 8.4 social media accounts, which means that there is ample opportunity to explore a variety of channels. TikTok is a perfect example, and one that many officers already know thanks to the lip sync challenge that went viral a few months ago. These platforms present an opportunity to humanize the individuals on your team and show that being on your team is fun and rewarding.
Define Your Ideal Candidate
Hopefully, you are not between a rock and a hard place, having to accept any recruit that walks through the door. Even if that is the case, you should have a good idea of what an ideal candidate looks like. The more specific you can get on the types of individuals that you want to attract with your marketing, the more successful you will be.
Start with demographics like age, location, prior military service, or experience level, just to name a few. Dialing these pieces in will reduce the risk that you spend ad dollars on unrealistic prospects. Then again, maybe you got a few hits from the nursing home because Betty Sue has a grandson that wanted to be a firefighter when he was younger. You know your hiring field best, so be strategic and put effort where you’re most likely to find qualified candidates.
Leaving Betty Sue out of the equation, detailed demographic data can help stretch your marketing budget while effectively communicating to the correct audience. Always remember that successful marketing starts with data.
Adjust Your Messaging for Millennials
Looking at the demographic data, the median age of a first responder has risen from 35 to just over 40 years old. This shouldn’t be surprising, as millennials are now the largest generation and comprise the bulk of the workforce. What this means for recruiters and marketers is that a shift in messaging is needed.
Millennials are a different breed, and recruiting them has proven difficult for even the greatest companies. They often have a different set of values and place high priorities on things that baby boomers deprioritized.
So what should you focus on? Perks, incentives, and advancement opportunities are the direction that most go in when targeting millennial recruits. This has been the order of the day for recruiters for years, thinking that it would be the biggest driving force to filling their pipeline. Millennials are hugely purpose-driven, too, so the mission. It’s easy to recruit first responders this way, because what they do is already inherently missional. Focus on the impact that individuals can make in their community. And don’t be cheesy about it.
Recruiting First Responders
Recruiting first responders could get tougher in the years to come. Public scrutiny and a constant spotlight on these men and women make it a hard sell. There’s risk involved. But these are also essential personnel who are true heroes to the communities they serve.
With the right messaging and marketing strategy, you can have a recruiting pipeline full of ideal candidates. If you realize you need course correction or a new direction, look no further than the Your Business Marketer team. With years of experience helping departments and municipalities across the midwest, we are standing by to help. Learn more about the YBM team and find additional tips on recruiting by visiting our website.