Online Advertising to Public Safety: Consistency Matters

The future is unwritten. Uncertainty abounds. But as long you sell to public safety and the sun shines tomorrow, there’s opportunity to grow: brand equity, market insight, product development, sales strategy, leads, sales and so on.

Simple, as they say, but not easy.

Especially now. Life has changed under the pandemic. In-person sales meetings are infrequent or nil. Same goes for live conferencing and product demonstrations. Much of life has been given over to phones and devices. At the same time, the work of the people we serve—law enforcement, fire, corrections and EMS professionals—goes on. Sure, there are differences there too—increased PPE use and enhanced scrutiny of law enforcement—but the basic mission and operations have not changed. So, why should yours?

Recently I’ve heard a lot of marketers talking about the need to make cuts, hunker down and wait for things to shake out. If you sell middle-school classroom furniture or salon equipment, maybe that’s smart. But you don’t. You sell to public safety—individuals who continue to go out every day and do their jobs, despite the increased risk.

Is now the time for your brand to disappear from their sphere of experience?

The Digital Edge

One of the best ways to reach customers online is through digital advertising. I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about advertising from manufacturers over the years. But effective advertising has also been responsible, in large part, for great success.

For example, you probably know that business is booming at Amazon: Following a 63% increase in stock valuation in 2020, it is currently the highest priced stock on Wall Street. What you might not know is the e-commerce giant is the single largest advertising buyer in the U.S., spending nearly $7 billion annually. To dominate in a crowded space like e-commerce, Amazon knows they need spend money to get in front of customers.

What does Amazon have to do with your and your business? A consequence of our increasingly online lives is that public safety marketers now compete for the attention of first responders with the likes of Amazon—and NBA playoffs, online schooling, an endless news cycle and much more. Each of us has only so much attention to give.

Given the crowded field, effective advertising requires forethought and strategy. Some considerations:

  • Are you selling something relatively easy to understand, like knives? Or does it require some education, like an CAD system? Either way, is your value proposition compelling and clear?
  • Who specifically is your target audience and what are their challenges? Does your branding and messaging speak to those challenges? Do they reflect the values of your market segment authentically?
  • Where in the sales funnel does your message fall and is your message consistent with sales strategy?

These shouldn’t be difficult questions to answer, but they do require time and thought. The more specificity you offer, the better.

Public safety professionals are loyal to the people, and brands, that earn their trust.

Consistency Is Key

Another aspect of online advertising that requires your time and thought: How to structure your campaign so as to deliver a consistent presence over time. Consistency leads to familiarity, which begets trust. Public safety professionals are loyal to the people, and brands, that earn their trust. Regardless of who you target and through which medium, my advice is to budget for consistent messaging rather than a big, but unsustainable, advertising splash.

A final word about consistency: Reliable cadence matters, but so too does consistent branding. Not only do you need to connect with your customers online, you also need them to connect the message back to your brand and products. Colors, fonts, logos, images, messaging—all this needs to be recognizable as yours. The questions outlined above will assist in getting your message right before you get it out there.

To finish where we began: It is a changing and busy world. But therein is the opportunity. Let’s face it, most of what we get dished online is junk: Ads that don’t appeal to us, emails we never asked for, breaking news that has no bearing on our life and social media that divides and distracts us. What all this means is that good information, the kind that solves recurrent and dogged problems, is precious. That’s what good products do and, increasingly, that’s what good advertising offers too.

Good advertising should let potential customers get to know you—from awareness to interest to consideration, purchase and advocacy. Put your customer first and foremost, be consistently consistent in your online presence and over time, you’ll find success.

Crawford Coates

CRAWFORD COATES is the content marketing manager Lexipol. Prior to this role, he was publisher at Calibre Press, a publisher and trainer for law enforcement, and an editor at PennWell Public Safety, publisher of Law Officer, FireRescue and JEMS. He is a co-founder of Below 100 and author of the book Mindful Responder: The first responder's field guide to improved resilience, fulfillment, presence, & fitness--on and off the job. He holds a master's degree in public policy and administration.

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