Inform and involve as many community members as possible to gain support and ensure project success
Gaining support from stakeholders, elected/appointed officials, and the public is foundational to a project’s success. Guided by a public participation plan, outreach and engagement strategies range from traditional methods, such as Public Information Open Houses, to digital-focused tools, such as email marketing, to innovative techniques, such as text message surveys. Ultimately, the goal is to inform and involve as many community members as possible – spanning diverse age groups, nationalities, and income levels – to facilitate conversations.
That’s why we’re sharing popular outreach methods so you can determine the best uses of your time and budget, and get the most bang-for-your-buck. Plus, we’ve added a few of our favorite ideas, best practices, and resources along the way.
To get started, we recommend focusing on the three Es – educating, engaging, and envisioning. Let’s take them one-at-a-time.
Establishing a reliable and trusted resource for sharing project information is key to consistently educating the public about goals, concepts, engagement opportunities, and progress. A few of our go-to methods to help gain traction include:
- Website: Websites work 24/7 as an advocate for your project to inform, promote, and engage – so you don’t have to. Whether utilizing a dedicated page on an existing website or developing a new micro-site, webpages are an ideal way to keep project information current and comprehensive for around-the-clock public access.
- Media Outreach: Positive earned media, which can be gained by outreach to local and industry media outlets, increases your chances of getting your project in front of the public eye. To start, generate a media list of local and/or relevant newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and blogs. Then, during the project’s process, craft press releases on key milestones and/or engagement activities to distribute to these media contacts. If you’re able to, collaborate with your client’s communications team to leverage any existing media relationships to spread the word even more.
- Social Media: A no-brainer for reaching people these days, social media encompasses many platforms – whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram (and for those brave enough, TikTok) – and software to help you take advantage of each one. While we can spend pages on this topic alone, we’ll leave you with our team’s favorite tool to leverage: geofencing. Facebook geofencing marketing allows you to target specific audiences based on their location within a geographic area with a tailored ad message – a perfect solution for reaching people in or traveling through the project area.
- Email Marketing: There a numerous email marketing software companies to choose from and use (MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular, cost-effective options) to send mass emails with project information. While you may need to generate your outreach list organically, make sure an existing database isn’t around from previous projects and/or studies in the area to help give you a head-start.
- Marketing Materials: There will always be a need for printed materials – fact sheets, flyers, and posters – to disseminate information. Ultimately, these marketing materials should be clear, concise, and visually appealing, as well as placed in public locations near the project, such as libraries and grocery stores.
- Pre-recorded Presentations and Videos: As attention-spans shorten, videos can be an effective tool for capturing audiences. This can be achieved by posting a pre-recorded presentation for viewers to watch at their convenience or creating a video from scratch with project information and highlights (if choosing this route, we like using Adobe Spark, Canva, or Vimeo).
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