The Power of Community Engagement

December 10, 2018

The traditional definition of community engagement is “the facilitation of communication and exchange between an organization and community.” While that’s certainly true, that doesn’t really capture what community engagement can do for your organization.

To maximize impact, think of community engagement as a specialized form of messaging.

Community engagement places your company’s core values on display. The old adage “actions speak louder than words” rings true here, so before you begin a concerted community engagement initiative, it’s important to have a grip on five key components:

The end result: For what purpose are you engaging? What is the ultimate goal of your actions? Common examples include greater community visibility, improved public standing or an introduction to a new community. Establish ongoing metrics to track and determine your return on investment.

The audience: Which community are you trying to reach? With this consideration, be specific: are you trying to reach “all residents of the Southeast,” “all residents of the county in which you operate,” or perhaps an even more narrow niche? With today’s technology, your audience can be defined by much more than just location. You can select by education, income, background or other demographics.

The message: What message are you trying to send through your actions? What messages could you reasonably be interpreted to be sending? The same rule applies: be specific. When considering how other parties may interpret your message, be discerning as well: look at your proposed message from all angles, not only those angles you WANT to view.  Regardless of what you meant to say or what your intention is, if a message could be misinterpreted, it is hard to undo the damage once it is done. Looking at the language and presentation of your message from multiple personas helps create the desired result and reduce risk for your organization.

The method: What is your primary method for delivering your message? The scope of your options is vast. Are you holding town halls? Will you host charitable company outings? Identify what action or style of event suits your goal, audience and message. Sensitive consideration of each piece and every step of planning your community engagement effort pays off at the end.

The reinforcement: After your main push is complete, this last step ensures the longevity of your hard work. How are you going to reinforce the message? What communications are you going to employ, and through what channels are you going to distribute them? Options include to display these actions on your website, on social media, or working with the news media as a partner. Again, remember to look at this from multiple angles: community engagement is about your targeted audience, so don’t destroy your good work by badly publicizing your actions.

Whether a nonprofit, Fortune 500 company or family-run business – all successful organizations have strategic community engagement plans that incorporate the components above. NP Strategy works with organizations across the Carolinas and beyond to ensure their community engagement plans are effective, efficient and well executed.

 

Jean Cecil Frick is a veteran of the private, public and non-profit sectors driven by helping individuals and organizations achieve their goals. Prior to joining NP Strategy, Jean Cecil served as the CEO of a start-up web development firm. Under Jean Cecil’s leadership, the firm created high design, strategically planned and easily managed websites for businesses, non-profits and schools throughout the Carolinas.

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