7 ways to promote EMS and fire grants

Sharing your grant success will further your standing in the community and boost your chances of more funding

One way to enhance a fire or EMS agency's grant application is to look for an opportunity to explain how the department will promote and market the grant award and implementation.

First, look for specific questions on the application that ask about a grant award and program marketing strategy. If there are no such questions about promotion, use an addendum or "other information" field to outline the promotion and marketing strategy.

When building a grant marketing strategy, consider all of the steps in the grant process as opportunities to promote your efforts to the community. During the application process, reach out to the local media to explain which grants are being sought, the need the grants will solve for the department and how this will aid the community. This can be done by one-off or quarterly news releases. If the agency has an officer comfortable with the media, invite the media representatives for an interview.

Include a list of previously awarded grants and their impact on the department and community. This is a great way to show how the agency is working to get more bang for the taxpayers' buck.

Announcing application submissions might help the agency get noticed by local businesses, foundations and civic groups that did not realize their community's EMS and fire responders had funding needs.

There are several stages or dates after the grant's award that are ready-made for promotion. Every message — from a news release or social media status update — needs to communicate what, why, how and who. Here are seven stages or opportunities for grant promotion.

Stage 1: Award announcement
U.S. Representatives and Senators excel at announcements of Assistance to Firefighters Grants to departments in their congressional district. If awarded an AFG grant, be sure your elected officials are aware of it. If they issue an official media releases, offer to be quoted in it and help distribute it locally.

For other grants, the responsibility to promote it likely falls to the department chief, PIO, or marketing representative. An announcement to local media should include at least these four items.

  • What is the amount of the award and its intended use?
  • Why did the department apply for the grant and what specific attributes made the application worthy of funding?
  • How will the department implement the grant-funded program or use the money to purchase equipment?
  • Who supported the grant application and who awarded the grant?

Look back at the grant application. Use letters of support from local officials, department leaders, or even the application answers to create quotes to include in the news release.

If the grant award includes a big check, by all means attach or link to a photograph of the chief and department members, in uniform and at the station, holding the big check. Include other dignitaries, VIPs, and elected officials.

These grip-and-grin photos are a good way to stoke the egos of dignitaries. However, some media outlets won't use them. Larger outlets will send a photographer.

However, always have high-quality photos available for the media. If there is no one within the agency who is handy with a camera and has a good eye for composition, hiring a freelance photographer with a news background is worth it.

Stage 2: Project initiation or equipment purchase
Once the project is underway, deliver an update to the local media. At this stage, explain the specification process for a new ambulance or brush truck. Or announce a collaborative strategic planning process with other health care representatives to start a community paramedic program.

Make sure the community knows the department is moving forward and wisely spending the money it was awarded.

Stage 3: Equipment delivery
If the grant funded an equipment purchase, make sure to announce the arrival of that equipment. Invite broadcast media to the station to have personnel explain how a mechanical CPR device is used to care for a cardiac arrest patient or how a ventilation fan makes fire suppression more effective.

Video of equipment being loaded into an ambulance or a fire engine compartment is frequently showcased in local television news of grant funded fire and EMS equipment. Don't leave out the print media as many of them now have online channels to share and distribute videos. 

Stage 4: Training on the equipment or implementing a program
Nearly every tool or device used by medics and firefighters requires some training before it is put into use. Training program objectives and activities, as well as images or videos of the training happening, make compelling promotional content.

If a trainer or educator from outside the department is brought into conduct training, that person is a good candidate to talk about the equipment or program implementation. Headlines or quotes attributed to a national expert or leading trainer working with the local department increase newsworthiness.

Stage 5: Notable results
The nature of EMS and fire is that there are many tools and treatments that have limited, yet very significant uses. Make sure to remind your community after the first time a new grant-funded AED is used, a police officer revives a narcotics overdose with naloxone, or an extrication tool is used at a motor vehicle collision. Remind them that the save made, in part, was from a successful grant application.

Stage 6: Regular updates 
As soon as you announce the award, schedule calendar reminders for three, six, and 12 months out. Each of those dates is a reminder of an opportunity to tweet or post to Facebook a photo and message about the grant-funded equipment or program.

Many of your social media fans and neighbors likely missed the previous announcements so there is no need to hold back. Share successes frequently and boldly.

Stage 7: Create a participation experience
Many grant-funded projects are well-suited for creating an experience. Let the reporter don a new set of turnout gear. Invite a health correspondent to ride along on a community paramedic visit to the patient — ensure the patient's willingness to speak about the program before your visit.

In grants, like many things, success begets more success. There are many stages of success — not just the notification of a successful award — to share with your community.

Finally, always share and link to the local media's coverage of grant awards and implementation from your department's social channels. And send those links to the agency, business, group or foundation that awarded the grant. 

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