Marketing to 911: 5 Tips to Reach a Changing Environment

Is there any area of public safety that’s changing more rapidly than 911? 

What was once focused on emergency calls from landlines has evolved into a 911 system that’s an intricate, data-driven environment designed to more quickly and intelligently serve people in emergency situations.

Smartphones and smart homes give us access to more information than ever before, so today’s 911 centers are privy to much more data than they ever had in the past. From a public safety standpoint, that’s a good thing. But rapidly evolving technology also brings increased complexity. 

While more and better information typically leads to faster resolution, the challenge for 911 centers lies in the ability to quickly access and share the most relevant information. The sheer volume of information now available from a variety of sources necessitates solutions that can organize data into one, intelligible stream. 

The traditional 911 system isn’t yet equipped to support rapidly evolving technology, making keeping up with the changes difficult. Emergency Communication Centers — and the people who work there — need solutions that help them keep pace.

The ever-changing environment, not to mention the pace of the change, creates unique challenges for companies like yours with products or services to sell to this audience. 

Marketing to 911 is a combination of recognizing the evolving nature of contemporary emergency centers and remaining sensitive to day-to-day challenges. At the same time, it should highlight how your solution makes these demanding, high-stakes jobs easier.

Tip the scales in your favor with these five considerations.

5 Tips to Successfully Market to 911

1. Tap into the Next Generation 911 landscape.

The same analog technology has powered 911 for decades. Over the years, enhancements have accommodated the introduction of cellphones, location tracking and texting.

The public, however, expects 911 to work with their lives and today’s faster paced, digital environment. Individuals want the ability to send texts, pictures or video messages and know that they will receive the needed help from any device, at any time. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Next Generation 911 (NG911) is a multi-billion-dollar investment in hardware, software, standards, policies and training that will update the current infrastructure to keep up with current technology. NG911 replaces the old systems with an IP digital format so that all data – whether it appears on a desktop monitor or transmits from a smart device – can interconnect with a 911 system. 

This new landscape enables the public to make “calls” from any communication device and for emergency centers to collect, forward and share information. It’s a significant move for the industry that needs to provide more real-time data, images, video and other data than ever before. 

Centers in bigger cities are in some cases further along in their adoption and integration of new technology, including updates driven by NG911. On the other hand, many mid-size agencies are leading the way in the transition. Opportunity exists for products and services that help them get there faster.

But NG911 drives the need for interoperability, so integration will be key. Your system, device, application or product needs to connect and communicate with other systems seamlessly. There is little room for systems that don’t work together. Assuming your product or technology does help in the integration world, your messaging and marketing efforts should reflect this. 

2. Embrace an evolving vernacular.

The 911 evolution means a move from legacy terms to language that reflects the industry’s current reality. 

One of the first examples is the use of Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) instead of the traditional reference to Public Service Answering Points (PSAPs). This new term originated with national leaders and stakeholder organizations and is gaining momentum. That’s because “ECCs” better reflects the move of 911 communication centers from “only” phone calls to the management of a broader set of data.

“Telecommunicators” is the preferred term for the skilled staff working in an ECC. The terms “dispatcher” and “call-taker” have been used to describe this function, but depending on the center, a telecommunicator may perform both roles or just one. It’s also important to understand that states around the country are working to reclassify ECC staff as public safety employees, and thereby elevate the profession. Reclassification makes employees eligible for more benefits and protections and signals that this work is more than an administrative role, but rather an essential part of public safety.

The move to NG911 (as described above) will also likely drive new disciplines. People may eventually serve as data analysts, be involved in investigations, or perform roles as evidentiary specialists. It’s important to keep a pulse on these changes and how they impact industry nomenclature — and market demand.

The changing vernacular means thatthe words you use in your marketing matter. To effectively catch the attention of the 911 audience, you must know who you are talking to. Only then can you speak to them in a way that resonates. 

3. Recognize new ways of working .

Today’s telecommunicators aren’t just gathering and distributing large amounts of information as they process requests for help. They are also virtually “on the scene” to provide assisted telephone CPR and other procedures that help callers save lives in real time. 

New products in the market create easy and immediate access to needed information and prepare telecommunicators to walk callers step-by-step through life-saving procedures.

The app,PulsePoint, is one example of an innovative tool that supports this expanded role. 

PulsePoint includes an automated external defibrillator (AED) registry that gives specific location information for nearby AEDs. This information can also be quickly integrated into agency websites to provide telecommunicators with access to a live, interactive AED location map.

Now, rather than saying to the caller (who’s got somebody on the floor in sudden cardiac arrest), “Okay, the next step is to find the nearest AED,” they can quickly look at their screen and tell them, “The nearest AED is on the south wall of the lobby near the registration desk.”

What this means is that a telecommunicator should be able to access all the necessary data to manage an emergency in one place, from a single screen. This limits the number of distractions, makes for a faster response time, and lessens the risk for error. 

Integrated solutions like PulsePoint recognize the need for the right data at the right time and acknowledge the changing role of telecommunicators. They’re also the most likely to be implemented.

4. Understand that risk – and failure – are not options.

No one in 911 leadership is interested in a system that operates with regular downtime of their system. That’s bad enough at Starbucks. But 911 going down is a bit worse than a slower latte (to most, anyway). The pressure to achieve such extraordinary performance oftentimes creates an environment of risk aversion.

The luxury of trying something that potentially might not work simply doesn’t exist. ECC directors are necessarily hesitant to try new, unproven products or solutions with no measurable track record of success. Proof points thathelp a 911 director see your solution as a safe choice are vital to adoption. Case studies and statistical results, along with the reassurance that what you are showing them will not let them down, will go a long way.

Data storage represents an example of this line of thinking.

Like nearly every other industry, the 911 industry is moving data storage from installed hardware and software to the cloud. But in this context, the stakes for doing so are much higher than usual. After all, 911’s performance — and the public’s safety — is predicated on accurate, accessible data. 

Decision makers want to know that this move is safe. They need to understand that, in this case, data is not stored in just one data center. Even if one data center is destroyed,  they are still able to operate via one of the others. This gives 911 directors the reassurance that cloud storage is a safe, viable option for many applications.

The example illustrates why it’s so important to always think about how your products or services will help mitigate risk, not cause more.

5. Be sensitive to current and ongoing challenges.

In addition to risk, turnover is a major challenge in 911 centers. That and the ongoing health and wellness of telecommunicators keep leaders up at night. 

TheNational Emergency Number Association reports that nationally, emergency communication centers are seeing 15-20% employee turnover. While the pandemic and the resulting “Great Resignation” had an impact, this industry was experiencing higher than average churn even before that.

Today’s telecommunicators deal with many stressors — and it’s only getting worse. They regularly bear witness to violent and traumatic events. Rather than exceptional, life-defining moments, these traumatic episodes are realities they encounter every day. The volume of calls and their increasing difficulty contribute to diminished mental wellbeing and, therefore, turnover.

Leaders are constantly taxed with recruiting, hiring and training new employees as well as implementing retention strategies to keep current employees healthy and on the job. This pulls their attention away from assessing and adding any new products and services. Instead, their focus is on the constant influx of new telecommunicators that need to be up to speed in a relatively short amount of time. 

That’s why your offering needs to be easy: easy to implement, easy to integrate and easy to learn. A leader needs to know that by choosing your solution, their telecommunicators can come in, take a seat and start using your product or service right away, without a lot of training or customization. The solution needs to not be a drain or distraction on leadership. That could mean plug and play, or it could mean you come in and handle all the training so leadership can focus on their other priorities.

A seamless integration of offerings and messages

The 911 system continues to be an integral part of everyday life. In fact, an estimated240 million 911 calls are made in the U.S. each year. Understanding how 911 centers work and what’s important to leaders and telecommunicators are crucial to effectively marketing your product or service to this audience. 

Companies withgreat public safety marketing messages address needs and concerns upfront and are more likely tobreak through the noise. For the 911 leaders, it’s understanding the impact of new technology and mitigating risk. But it’s also building a balance with the people aspect of the business. After all, saving lives and ensuring the ongoing safety of the general public is always the goal. New solutions should enable that, not detract from it. How do you help them do more with less?

The winners in this space answer the cry from the industry by ensuring their offerings are seamlessly integrated. They also present messages that are clear, concise and understandable while getting to the heart of the problem being solved and how they are here to help.

Ready to talk more about today’s 911 and how you can best position yourself in this dynamic environment? Let’s start a conversation!

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