How you promote your community engagement project can dramatically increase your reach and engagement rate, but where do you start?
The first consideration is where you are driving people to – once they’re interested how can they get involved? If you have a community engagement platform, like Engagement Hub, direct all your promotion efforts to this one central place where users can get information and participate directly in your consultation. That will help you track and report on your engagement project.
STRATEGIC ways to promote your community engagement project
Everything starts with research – know your project, target audience or stakeholders, assess your risks and opportunities.
2. Define your target audience
Get clear on who you’re talking to – research where they hang out and then you can find out how to reach them. Be clear on the level of impact each stakeholder or group can have on your project to help you prioritise your efforts
3. Audience segmentation
Divide your audience into segments to target them better and tailor your messages to each segment. This could be geographical, demographic or based on interests
A clear and visible brand will bring all your engagement activity together and help your audience to recognise your materials quickly and easily. If you’re using your company brand, create a specific look or tagline specific for your engagement project
Firstly, check the main language spoken by your target audience and tailor communications to this. Engagement Hub can help with a multi-lingual audience as we have over 100 languages in our built-in translator. Secondly, test your communication messaging on your target audience as your language/text may mean something else to them or you may be using too much jargon. Communication is not just the message, but how it is interpreted.
6. Relevant Messaging
Make sure your messaging is relevant to your target audience. For example, using slang and youth language wouldn’t be right for an engagement project aimed at seniors. Tailor your messaging to your audience.
Make sure you have a strong call-to-action on all your promotional materials. If possible, direct all activity to one place like your website or Engagement Hub site. Digital methods mean you can track more effectively. For anyone not online, offer support to engage online like training or pop up events with staff available to help them.
8. Online Engagement Platform
Using an online engagement platform, like Engagement Hub, can transform your consultation and the success of your project. Online engagement software provides you with a suite of tools to inform and collaborate as well as comprehensive security and reporting. Engagement Hub uniquely also has a complete stakeholder relationship management system built in so you can track and record all your offline activity here as well, enabling you to produce instant reports on your entire engagement practices.
9. Be Strategic
You can’t do everything, so be selective and strategic. What’s going to deliver you with the results? What’s going to reach your target audience?
Know your budget and stick to it – use strategic above-the-line (paid-for) activity like advertising alongside free methods like utilising screens in your reception or staff as ambassadors.
DIGITAL ways to promote your community engagement project
Your website needs to clearly reflect your engagement project – make it easy for people to find out where they can get more information and get involved. Put a banner or link on your homepage.
12. Organic search
Most users will not type in a URL or remember how to reach you from an advert – they will type a search term into a search engine. Consider what search terms people will use for your project, set these as keywords in your webpage metadata and test to make sure people are reaching you when they search organically
You can use blogs to create more online visibility – again choosing keywords relevant to your project to help people find it but make sure each page has a different keyword so the search engine knows where to send relevant traffic.
14. Paid Search
To further boost the visibility of your engagement project, consider adding paid search to your budget. Using your carefully defined keywords, set up campaigns and craft your text to entice users to click on your ad.
15. Google – My Business listing
Don’t forget your Google ‘My Business’ listing – this is what displays on the right-hand side of Google search with your contact details and you can update this with current offers or happenings. Add your engagement project here for more visibility in online search.
Growing in popularity is the gamification of engagement. Basically, this is using gaming features in your marketing and engagement. Consider how you could add badges to your ambassadors / influencers or use levels of engagement with points for each level a user engages with. These relatively new techniques will work for some projects and audiences and not others so consider if this is right for you,.
17. Augmented and Virtual Reality
Another exciting area is AR and VR – can you show what your new development or project might look like once completed? Helping your audience visualise what you’re trying to achieve can really deepen the level of engagement.
Video continues to be the most viewed type of content online. It’s a great way to quickly get across complex and visual content but can be used for any type of project. Use an animation style or use talking heads / third party advocates to tell the story for you. Also record your engagement events if you have any and share them online so more people can attend or watch the replay.
19. Social Media
Reach your audience where they are already hanging out – social media! Use your social channels to continually promote all the different aspects of your engagement project. Depending on your topic, it’s important to monitor comments and insights regularly, moderating where needed.
20. Social Media Advertising
To increase your reach on social media, use demographic targeting within advertising to reach more of your target audience. On Facebook, you can upload your email subscribers list and create a look-a-like audience to target, you can target your ad via locations or use a Facebook pixel to retarget people who have already visited your website. With Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest advertising now growing in functionality and popularity, it’s a great time to investigate how you can promote your engagement project via social media advertising.
21. Social Media Groups
In Facebook, groups are prioritised to be shown to users above pages, therefore if you can post about your engagement project in groups you will increase your visibility. Join relevant groups but be aware of the group rules to make sure your post is allowed. LinkedIn groups and networks are another great place you can join to promote to relevant stakeholders.
‘TRADITIONAL’ ways to promote your community engagement project
22. Advertising – print, radio, TV, cinema, outdoor, social
Paying to get people’s attention to your project undoubtedly works if done correctly. Visuals are very important for print, TV, social and outdoor advertising. For radio, using a good script, music and sound effects can help to grab people’s attention. Consider using a media buying agency to help you select the type of advertising that will work best for your project. Test your ad on a sample from your target audience to be certain the visuals or messaging are right. Be strategic otherwise this area can really drain your budget with no gain. Also try and use tracking links or measurement so you can test whether your traditional or social advertising is being effective.
23. PR & Media
This is much more than just preparing a press release and sending it to your local paper. It’s about building relationships with PR & Media contacts and knowing your hooks – what makes this story newsworthy? Find relevant journalists on LinkedIn or consider using a PR agency with an existing network to support you.
Advertorial is a paid article. Although it will state in the small print it’s sponsored or paid-for, it will look to the user more like a standard article. This can be a great way to get your message across and capture a savvy audience who won’t look at your advertisement but may read an article. This works really well for a Mayor’s column or project update.
25. Outdoor Signage and Banners
In addition to paid-for advertising spaces outdoor, look for opportunities you have to display banners or signage. Signage is an incredibly effective marketing tool, often underutilised. Could you have a pop-up banner in reception, a vinyl banner on a fence or lamppost banners?
26. Hand out flyers
At key, busy locations, it could be worth handing out flyers about your project. For example, outside a train station or in a shopping centre. Always seek permission first from the relevant authorities.
27. Put up notices
Use community noticeboards in senior, youth or health centres, libraries, cafes or outdoor noticeboards where available.
28. Listening stations
Create a listening station where you can capture community views on a subject. You can even hire video booths where people can record a video of their views on your project which can be a really engaging way to seek feedback. This works well when heavily publicised or in a busy public place.
29. Pop up events
Similarly, use a great location to host a pop-up event. It could be as simple as a table with some plans and staff to chat to or you could create an entertaining event that your target audience will love e.g. Family event – entertainers, performances, balloons, face painting etc.
Use I-pad kiosks or laptops to enable people to engage digitally at your event – lock these to your Engagement Hub platform and users can view information and participate right at your event so you don’t have to spend time afterwards collating feedback.
30. Launch event
Consider hosting a launch event –this could be a professional event with speakers and presentations or more of a fun event like the above pop-up ideas.
31. Other people’s events
You don’t even have to create your own event, you can ‘piggyback’ on another relevant event happening. For example, attend a community or business networking event to present to others about your project, attend a seniors’ morning tea or a family event hosted by a local business.
A great way to get stand out at other people’s events is to become a sponsor. Investigate what sponsorship benefits you get. It’s much more than just logo display – can you speak on a panel, share a video on their social media or host a stall? Make sure you fully leverage all the sponsorship opportunities.
33. Email your database
Your email database is full of people who are already interested in what you have to say, so contact them regularly with updates or give them an exclusive look at your project or invite-only event.
Your staff are your greatest ambassadors. Particularly if you have a large organisation, take the time to brief staff on your project and get them involved first so you are all ‘singing the same song’.
35. Email signature
This small promotional element can be a really quick win – use your organisation’s email signature to promote your engagement project either through a banner or promoted link to a webpage or video. Think how many emails are sent out every day – each one is an opportunity to convey your message.
When staff are actively consulting on your project or for any customer-facing staff, it’s great to brand their clothing to promote your project. Relatively inexpensively, you can get great stand out.
Merchandise done well can create a lasting impact. It can be as simple as a branded balloon or something more elaborate and applicable to your target audience.
38. Giveaways and competitions
A great way to get people incentivised to take part in your engagement is to create a giveaway or competition. Once you’ve checked the regulations (state legislations plus media-specific guidelines), create your competition and terms & conditions. Your prize could be something that would appeal to most people e.g. iPad or something relevant to your project. Be clear about how you are selecting the winner and promote the prize winner to increase your engagement.
39. Text messaging
SMS gets you right to people’s phones with your message so can be very targeted, but some can find it intrusive. Our advice is to only use this method if you have a list of people already signed up who have given you their mobile numbers and consent to contact them via this method.
40. On-hold messaging
Don’t forget your organisation’s on-hold message or music could be changed to reflect your current engagement project. It’s simple but another free avenue to promote your project.
NETWORKING ways to promote your community engagement project
41. Your network
Create a stakeholder matrix to make sure you are aware of and reaching your entire network. Prioritise your stakeholders and groups and then prioritise your promotion efforts to these primary stakeholders first. Learn more about how beneficial a stakeholder matrix can be here.
42. Community groups and networks
It’s likely within your stakeholders, you have some key groups that already have strong networks. Contact them and ask to speak at their next meeting or to send out an email to their network about your project.
43. Community Influencers
It’s also likely that there are some key stakeholders that have strong influence within your community e.g. a Mayor who’s very active on Twitter or a leading business owner with a good network. Approach them to learn more about your project and ask if they would promote your consultation.
44. Referral incentives
Sometimes an incentive is needed to ask someone to promote to their network. Consider a ‘bring-a-friend’ bonus to a consultation event or a competition where you’re asking social media users to tag a friend to go into the draw to win a prize.
A partnership is a long-term and strong arrangement between you and another. This creates richer promotional opportunities and deeper engagement. Review your stakeholder matrix to spot any possible partnership opportunities.
The ideal is that your promotion will spread via word-of-mouth. To position your project for this to happen, you need to think about why someone would share it with someone else e.g. a family fun day event to promote your consultation would likely be shared by parents, an environmental campaign is likely to be shared by activists etc. What makes your project or consultation worth someone talking about?
If your project is something physical like a new park or hospital redevelopment, can you use signage at this location to signal people towards your engagement on the project? Can you host an event on-site or install artwork or something memorable to act as a special attraction for your project.
Explore promotional opportunities within your sector. For example, if you are building a new high-rise can you showcase the development at an architects’ forum? Or if you are consulting on vehicle use on a particular road, could you gather together truck drivers, unions and industry professionals to discuss your project?
As the above point raises, your particular project will likely have its own unique promotional opportunities so consider what these could be based on the type, sector and scale of the project.
Tracking how effective your promotion is
50. Track your activity
It’s vital you set up tracking codes, specific URLs, QR codes or surveys to understand which marketing channels are most effective. It can be as simple as asking ‘How did you hear about XXX?’ in your survey. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to know what’s working and where to prioritise your resources in the future.
51. Close the feedback loop
Another vital step is to feedback to everyone who was involved in your engagement project. Send out a concluding email with the results or next steps, host an event or create a video to showcase the results of your engagement project. If you’re using Engagment Hub software, any updates you make to your project will automatically be emailed out to all project followers. Thank everyone who took the time to get involved, particularly partners or groups who promoted your messages for you.
52. Review, report and learn
Bring together all your marketing metrics, feedback from your engagement and from your team into one meeting, presentation or report. List out any learnings from your promotion and recommendations for future engagement projects.
Reporting doesn’t have to be onerous. If you’re using Engagement Hub, reports can be instantly generated with just one click. With our built-in stakeholder management tool, you can have insights into all your online and offline activity in one place and report on it in an instant.
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