WHAT IS AN INFLUENCER?
We tend to think of celebrities who have a worldwide reach like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Florida firefighter and paramedic Jason Patton with “Fire Department Chronicles” as the typical influencers. An influencer is anyone who has a significant impact on their audience’s behavior. Influencers build relationships and trust with their audience.
In this case, some of our biggest celebrity influencers in the volunteer fire and EMS world are educators, school counselors, coaches, and those who influence and guide students with career options.
Understanding what you want from your influencers is the first step. Do you want to focus on your junior or youth program? Are you looking for applicants 18 years or older?
Different influencers have distinctive strengths, and having an intended goal in mind is the first step toward making the right choice. Once you define your goals and your target audience’s composition, you’ll know which influencers to contact. Here are a few specific influencers you need to connect with while at school.
KEEP IT REAL
It’s essential to connect with influencers who have a connection to your department and have a reputation for being honest. Below are some possible influences that may provide you with consistent access to an audience.
- Drivers Education Courses
- Health Classes
- Sporting Events
- Career Centric Fire/EMS Classes
ONCE IN THE BUILDING
Utilizing influencers to assist in recruiting is a great way to get the word out about your department. You can reach untapped audiences and engage potential leads with the right influencers in new ways. Here are a few ideas you can implement once you make it into the building.
- Counselors & Administration Staff: Take them coffee and donuts in the morning. There is nothing better than the smell of coffee and a quick snack once you get to work. (Side note: Bagels may be a healthier option)
- Career Counselors: Take them your brochures, information handouts, and any promotional materials (SWAG), like a t-shirt or badge. It’s essential to have a conversation with them. Try not to rush in, restock your handouts, and leave. Also, let them know coffee and snacks are upfront with the counselors and administration.
- Drivers Education Department: Ask to conduct a presentation on “Distracted Driving” or “Drunk Driving” or anything related to the fire service. The best times to request this is before Homecoming and Proms. (Side note: Not all schools have Drivers Education – but this will also work with private driving education companies. Tell Greg, Walter sent you)
ALL ABOUT THE SWAG
Most influencers will promote your department as long as it doesn’t take too much time, energy, or resources. Give your influencers easy access to printed materials and promotional items (SWAG) to assist with this.
Another option is to provide them with pre-built content to promote your department.
- Videos (YouTube Channel, Website link, or on a Thumb Drive)
- Department SWAG (promotional items)
- Informational Powerpoint slides
SEEING IS BELIEVING
Arrange a station tour to show what your department has to offer those who might be interested in becoming a first responder. You want them to go back to school, spread the volunteer firefighter and EMT message to anyone interested, and show them the available opportunities and benefits.
These tours also help introduce influencers to see volunteering as a viable option that provides positive opportunities and advantages over some post-high school careers and plans.
As schools return to some normalcy and allow recruiters on campus, this is the perfect time to connect and cultivate relationships with all the community members and supporters who care and support your department. Remember, your ultimate goal is to connect with the student audience. And you never know; you may have a few influencers who become new members as well.
BY WALTER CAMPBELL, RECRUITMENT & RETENTION STRATEGIST