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How We Made It - Alberta Fire Chiefs Association

Part of an ongoing series that gives a glimpse of behind-the-scenes production for projects past and present. Attraction and retention are common problems across industries, no less for a provincial organization like AFCA. With the shrinking of small towns across Alberta, AFCA and its 400+ fire stations around the province faced attrition of their volunteer fire service. The majority of firefighters in Alberta are volunteers, excepting the services in Calgary and Edmonton. So this was a real dilemma for AFCA - and a danger to local communities: with the ageing of current service members, and with more and more young people leaving for larger cities away from their rural hometowns, what could AFCA do to attract and retain new members? When AFCA came to Donovan for advice, we hit upon a strategy pretty quickly. One thing we found out was that a lot of people misunderstood the commitment they'd have to make if they joined; yes it's as needed, but it's not full time. You can do your day job and also be a volunteer firefighter. The second thing we realized is that everyone who had joined was doing it because they had that spirit in them to help others. It was that spirit we needed to tap into, because the emotional content was far more powerful than the function and utility. We needed to bring that to the surface to appeal to others who also might feel this way, who were on the tipping point of joining, but who hadn't yet. Very quickly in a team brainstorm I came up with the slogan 'Answer the Call'; clearly this has two or three meanings: answer the call within yourself, the calling, that thing that makes you want to help people, the thing that will make you feel fulfilled and at peace with yourself for doing what's in your heart to do; second, it literally means what you'd be doing in the fire service; and third, it implies that you need to pick up the phone and join. It was one of our sales associates at the time, Hailey, who came up with the idea for the split-person visual: one side the regular day job; the other, that same person as a volunteer firefighter. It's a good concept since it conquers one of the key mental barriers in a visual way that people had about joining; the visual says, you can do this and that, and helps those thinking of joining to see themselves doing both. Together with the slogan, and the new logo we made that shows pride, these made powerful and compelling advertisements and established AFCA's first true brand. You can learn more about the project at the case study on this site. One final tactic we used was video. This isn't in our case study right now, so I thought I'd put it into this post. The firefighters are real, including our main actor; the action is captured at the training facility in Nisku. I'll let the video speak for itself. This approach in all, the slogan, these assets, and the logo we made, continue to be used to this day. It's pretty hard to beat. It was so good, in fact, that the entire program was picked up by the national association, and we started branding provincial services with the same brand.

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