Downtown Owatonna, with brick facade storefronts, and a flowering display in the foreground.Owatonna’s Police Recruitment Ad Campaign

Owatonna, like so many other cities, faced lower numbers of police applicants in 2020 and wanted to market the city to future applicants as a great place to begin a police career.

So the human resources director at the time, Lynn Gorski, worked with Townsquare Ignite to target their marketing efforts. Ignite helped build a geo-fence around identified skills-based law enforcement colleges and focused on the demographic group of 18-24 year olds. Whenever those students used their smart phones, tablets, or computers in that defined area, an ad promoting Owatonna as a great place to work appeared. The marketing worked similarly to when a person is online and searching for a refrigerator — the next time they are on Google, various refrigerator ads appear.

The city limited the target marketing ad to three months, running from October through December 2018, costing $1,500 per month. Ignite prepared statistics for the city, and those numbers showed hits on the Owatonna ads were twice what the company normally sees with other ad placements.

A less expensive, but more time intensive approach can be used with Facebook.

Owatonna has utilized the targeted marketing approach with Facebook for paid on-call firefighter recruitments, spending approximately $20 an ad.

Increased number applicants

The time commitment for the Google recruitment initiative was described as minimal: just a few meetings with Ignite staff and a few reviews of draft ads Ignite prepared for the city. Gorski noted the marketing staff at Ignite are the experts, that they know what grabs viewers’ attention, and she relied on their expertise, which was included in the $1,500 monthly fee.

Gorski credits project successes to connecting with the right people at Townsquare Ignite to execute the plan, and she conveyed high praise to the city’s police chief for being open and willing to try a new approach to access police applicant pools. A financial reality is that it is challenging to have budget dollars set aside for such an initiative, so planning is key.

In the first half of 2021, Gorski found an increased number of police applicants for city vacancies, and she attributes that to city outreach and applicant desire to seek a police officer position outside the metro area.