The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Selling Emergency Management

Below is an interesting article that Columbia County Emergency Management shared with us. The article describes how emergency management professionals must, in essence, "sell" the concept of emergency preparedness. That is, undeniably, the toughest part of an emergency management position--you are responsible for selling a product (preparedness) that no one honestly wants to think about (disasters). You must convince people to be ready for situations of which you do not have any specific details. You can't give them concrete facts or figures about what will happen. You can only convince them that something will happen sometime and it may affect them to some unspecified degree and they would do well to be ready for it (whatever it may be). While sometimes I feel that it would be easier and less stressful to sell cut-rate cleaning supplies door-to-door, I know that it would be nowhere near as satisfying...

Selling Emergency Management: An Unspoken Job Function (Column)
by Eric Holdeman, Emergency Management Magazine, on June 24, 2010

When you look at job descriptions in emergency management you find titles like program manager and director. The responsibilities might include disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. However, the unspoken job function that comes with every emergency management position is that of marketing.

Put more crudely, it means you must “sell emergency management” to a variety of people and organizations. The list is endless and there isn’t an element of your public or private community that doesn’t need what emergency management has to offer.

You might be scratching your heads at this notion that you are a salesperson with a job of having people buy into emergency management so let’s start with the basics:

• No one wants to be sold anything — they want to be buyers. The good thing about being in your position is that people won’t immediately recognize that you’re selling something and they’re the potential buyer. That will remove a few barriers to making the sale.
• Remember that you’re selling the benefits and not the features of emergency management. Think about trying to sell four-wheel drive or air conditioning in a car. The wrong thing to do is talk about how it works, what it costs and how to operate it. Instead, the idea is to describe what it can do for you.
• Before you start selling emergency management, you must know what the buyer wants. You do this by first listening and then working to build a relationship with the buyer. It may take some time to build rapport with a particular individual or organization. The key is maintaining contact. Add them to your e-mail lists for information on grant programs, informational seminars and the like. Doing this will help build trust. Without trust, the sale will never be made.
• Think about timing and when it’s best to have a sale. The answer is when people are motivated to buy. When is that in emergency management? When there’s a disaster. Anytime there’s a catastrophe anywhere in the world is a good time to push your emergency management wares.
• Update your Web page with information on how people can help with disaster relief efforts. Some emergency management organizations also use Facebook and Twitter to disseminate information.

If you’re a part of a government organization, one of your customer segments is your jurisdiction’s elected officials and senior appointed policymakers. Your job is to make them look good all the time. Here are few tips for keeping them engaged:

• Keep them informed on incidents happening in their jurisdiction and neighboring ones. People like to be in the loop, and you can build a strong relationship just by keeping them informed with an occasional phone call or e-mail.
• Include them in every public event you have. If you’re having a disaster presentation in an elected official’s district, invite them to attend. Offer them an opportunity to give opening remarks and provide them with a few talking points to make it easy for them.
• Include a quote in your news releases (coordinated of course) from the elected official on the topic you’re addressing.

Lastly in these circumstances, the media is often your friend. They provide free advertising by covering your messages. Get to know the assignment editors and news directors for your local television and radio stations.

Happy selling — and sorry, there are no sales commissions.

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