Choosing the Right Public Safety Marketing Agency

No doubt you know all about the Great Resignation. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (aka the JOLTS report) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 11 million job openings in October 2021, and the so-called “quits rate” — the number of people resigning from their jobs — dropped slightly, to 4.2 million from an all-time high of 4.4 million the month before.

Sales and marketing are no exceptions to the staffing shortage. We hear from both clients and prospective customers that they’re struggling these days to attract and retain talented staff. In fact, it’s one reason they turn to RedFlash Group for help. 

Looking to an outside agency to help with your marketing strategy is often a great idea. The same holds true for other, bigger marketing tasks that are highly important to your business but, well, just don’t seem to get done because no one has the bandwidth to take them on. Or you simply don’t have enough warm bodies to do what needs doing.

The Matrix Reloaded

With limited staff (or other resources), how do you decide what to tackle? One of our favorite paradigms to prioritize work is something you may be familiar with, the Eisenhower matrix, named after President Dwight Eisenhower, who used it while commander of NATO Forces and later as President. It’s a simple, straightforward way to make decisions about virtually anything. Every task on your or your marketing team’s plate—whether it’s what you need to do today, this month, this quarter or this year—goes into one of four quadrants:

  • DO: These are tasks that are both URGENT and IMPORTANT. Do them ASAP.
  • DECIDE: Anything that is IMPORTANT but NOT URGENT goes here. Decide the next step or schedule a time to resolve this task.
  • DELEGATE: If a task is NOT IMPORTANT but URGENT, hand it off to someone else to do.
  • DELETE: Tasks that are NOT IMPORTANT and NOT URGENT should be removed from your to-do list.

While you certainly can’t put everything in the “DO” quadrant, it doesn’t mean you should forget about them. We often see organizations with marketing tasks that are clearly important but not truly urgent–and simply don’t get done. This may include things like updating company branding, revisiting a strategic communication plan, refreshing a website, strategizing on how to reach a new market in public safety, and conducting customer research. When “DO” tasks push these essential marketing tasks to the bottom of the list (or they don’t even make the list), it may be time to call in reinforcements to ensure the “DECIDE” work gets done.

5 Considerations When Hiring a Marketing Agency to Work with Your Public Safety Organization

When you’re ready to hire an outside marketing firm, our advice is to tread carefully and choose wisely. By following the guidance here, you’ll be much more likely to choose a wonderful partner who helps you meet (and exceed!) your marketing goals for reaching those in the public safety industry.

Choose an Agency that Truly Knows Public Safety

Call this the cardinal rule—the one to follow above all others. Why? Because when you work with someone who doesn’t deeply understand public safety and doesn’t know the specific needs, history and context of each discipline—law enforcement, 911, EMS and the fire service—your budget will quickly get eaten up. It will take time for your agency to get up to speed on the audience(s) you’re trying to reach. Sure, it’s nice to work with someone who has a fresh, objective eye on your business, but you also need to choose a firm who can hit the ground running.

The Discovery Process Needs to Be Real and Deep

Maybe it goes without saying that any marketing firm should spend time asking questions to better understand who you are, what you do, why you do it and what sets you apart from your competitors. And they should truly listen to your answers. 

This early process of working with your agency should follow a clear protocol designed to reveal things you didn’t even know you needed or wanted. The agency should also offer solutions you may have never considered. At RedFlash Group we call this our diagnostic and it’s specific, measured and time-tested. It’s also not protracted, which allows us to start work pretty quickly.

Find a Firm that Values Real Relationships

If you read this blog, you’ve heard us say before that in public safety a lot of business gets done in person. While that’s not as easy to do in the age of COVID, those real connections still matter. And they can’t be built overnight. But with a right-fit agency, you should learn how to connect with key thought leaders—maybe even get introductions to some. 

It’s not uncommon for us to work with clients who want to grow their business into a new discipline. Let’s say your core business has been in EMS but now you want to reach fire or 911 as well. You could greatly benefit when your agency has connections you need in that new realm.

Work with an Agency that Loves Data

We all talk a lot about data, ROI and analytics, but these figures don’t mean much when they’re not put into the right context. Your organization needs a team that focuses on the metrics that really matter to your marketing goals. That means tracking against your specific KPIs so you understand early on what’s working and what needs to be optimized. Your KPIs are likely to be a mix of quantitative (lifting website traffic by 15% within two quarters, for example, or measuring lifetime customer value) and qualitative (e.g., growing awareness of your brand among target customers, or ensuring that everyone in your company is using the same messaging). 

The transparency of a feedback loop that shows how your marketing strategy and tactics are performing can’t be overstated. This Harvard Business Review article makes clear that even just one fast, simple and frequently measured metric—in this case, customer feedback—can be incredibly actionable for sales and marketing.

You’ve likely already been cautioned against using so-called “vanity” metrics—numbers that are typically easy and often free to get, like clicks, views and likes, but may have little or no correlation with what really matters. A good marketing agency will focus on more meaningful  metrics such as:  

  • Qualified leads 
  • Real engagement with your brand such as asking to talk or meet 
  • Spending a lot of time looking at multiple pages on your website 
  • Sales

Powerful metrics aren’t always the ones related to incoming revenue, though; don’t dismiss those that inform business decisions and future strategy and tactics. 

More isn’t more when it comes to measurement, either. Measuring everything under the sun is most often an indication of busyness, but rarely of effectiveness. So be sure your agency chooses your metrics wisely and well. For instance, there’s a big focus these days on the tremendous value of first-party data, meaning what you collect directly from your relationships with your customers, such as subscription information and data about their interests and past behavior with your brand. So it may be that you work with a marketing firm to more deeply understand your proprietary data and track KPI progress with that in mind.

Make Sure Honesty is at the Heart of Your Agency Relationship

If you’re ready to work with an outside marketing firm, that means you need help, in one way or another. While it’s never fun to hear criticism, this is an important opportunity to get honest feedback from the agency about your current marketing efforts, website, collateral, strategy, assets and processes. We often conduct a client benchmarking exercise so the organizations we work with can hear directly from their peers, customers, prospects and employees about how people really see their brand, products, customer service and more. 

The idea of healthy conflict as essential to the creative process is part of our DNA. It comes from The Advantage, a book by Patrick Lencioni that outlines what businesses need to achieve “organizational health”—the qualities required not only to function well but to outperform peers. Honesty and forthrightness—always delivered respectfully—should be natural to anyone you work with. This ensures the money and time you’re spending will be as impactful as possible. And that’s the goal, right?

Finding a “right fit” marketing firm isn’t always easy. But when you pair up with an agency who understands what you need and can deliver that, we truly believe the sky’s the limit in what you can achieve—not just for your marketing efforts but for your organization’s mission and purpose. 

You can learn more about finding the right agency in a previous RedFlash blog post, which includes a free, downloadable questionnaire for interviewing agencies. And if you’re ready to start a conversation about your marketing strategy for reaching public safety organizations, we’d love to talk.

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