When I first heard about Toronto moving company Firemen Movers, I thought it was such a great marketing concept – after all, who can you trust more than a firefighter?
Founded over a beer about two years ago, the company employs off-duty firefighters as professional movers – it's not just a good name. Firemen Movers has about 20 firefighter crew chiefs, 15 other professional movers – many of whom are hoping to be firefighters – and a handful of other employees that fit the bill.
If you ever speak to Lorne Babiuk, Firemen Movers co-owner and acting captain for the Toronto Fire Services, you'll quickly realize how passionate he is about taking on this second full-time job.
"This is an industry we can truly impact," Mr. Babiuk says. "When you think of a firefighter, you think of integrity, and that's what we're trying to replicate in this business."
Mr. Babiuk and his colleagues clearly have the commitment and enthusiasm to run this company well, and they've come up with a powerful brand to catch the public's interest. But they aren't just living off of the natural assumption that a firefighter will be hard-working. Firemen Movers is driving forward a great digital strategy: they invite their customers to take the lead in building the company's reputation by actively participating in a website called HomeStars – a space for homeowners to write reviews on North American home improvement and service companies.
"We're embracing the web," Mr. Babiuk says. "There's no hiding from it any more, it doesn't matter if you want to be part of it or not. If you're going to do work for people, you have to be prepared for people to comment and share their opinions online. If you don't embrace it, you're just cheating yourself.
"The more we can be in the public's eye and be scrutinized, the more legitimate we are as a company."
As I write this, Firemen Movers has a score of 9.5 out of 10 on HomeStars, averaged from 42 reviews. I can't think of better advertising than solid, authentic customer ratings that are consistently that high – Firemen Movers' status on this site is a wonderful testament to the good work its customers feel it does.
That said, Mr. Babiuk acknowledges not every review has been glowing – and he's okay with that.
"We have a couple of negative comments on HomeStars, so what we do is respond," he says. "We base our company on crystal clear communications … so what I can do is respond to the client and explain our side, but also explain it on HomeStars and give responses to comments that everybody can read."
Mr. Babiuk and the team are actively putting their brand in the hands of the public. Sure, they are confident in their good work, but if someone feels they didn't do good job, they want to know about it.
"We're Firemen Movers and we can live on our name or we can live on the work that we do – we prefer to live on the work that we do. That is what is going to grow our company," Mr. Babiuk says.
It is clear he already knows one of today's most important digital communications facts: conversations are happening about your company online, whether you choose to participate or not.
"We have a powerful brand – people recognize it, they like the idea, and the response from the public has been fantastic," Mr. Babiuk says. "It's all about backing it up now."
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Pearson is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.