Change Agents: Messaging Strategies to Expand Reach and Increase Recruitment

Emily Del Favero

Adapt is an organization that helps volunteer fire departments recruit firefighters, secure grants, and communicate effectively with government agencies and the public. The organization reached out to DaviesMoore because it was struggling to recruit firefighters in two states: Tennessee and Illinois.

A deep-dive review of Adapt’s marketing collateral revealed less than inspiring content on the surface. An analysis of Adapt’s return on investment showed that Tennessee and Illinois were incurring the highest cost per application received. We interviewed fire chiefs and volunteer firefighters to better understand what motivated people to become volunteer firefighters.

Through the insights gained, we developed an inspirational messaging strategy that would take shape within the creative to motivate the target to apply to become a volunteer firefighter. We identified social media as a powerful tool to execute this campaign for three reasons:

  1. Highly efficient targeting of the audience of prospective volunteers
  2. The ability to use strong imagery and messaging in a forum where prospects would be open to receiving it
  3. The ability to inspire and enable immediate action to apply

We created state-specific volunteer firefighter Facebook pages for both states and began a campaign to increase the number of “likes” using organic content to create an audience base. Playing off the popular video game series Call of Duty, we developed Facebook images and ads and website conversion-optimized landing pages that led with the primary message and call to action, “Call to Duty.” Through native advertising we were able to get this inspiring creative in front of the right audience at the right time for maximum relevance and resonance.


In less than 90 days, Facebook page likes soared to 1,865 for Tennessee and 4,978 for Illinois. Even more impactful was the increase in applications received, thus lowering the cost per application for a higher ROI. Through these efforts, Adapt’s cost per application was reduced by 20% in Illinois and 40% in Tennessee, outpacing even the highest performing states to date. Anecdotally, the client indicated the quality of applicants was also an improvement over prior campaigns.

“I have worked with DaviesMoore on several projects now and have enjoyed each of my experiences. From website building to ad buys, they have always been extremely responsive to our requests. As a fellow company that does a lot of in-house advertising, it is nice to know that we can contact DM for needs that we are unable to meet for our clients. I look forward to working with all of them more in the future.”

—Kate Mewes, Project Manager