Your Guide to Effectively Promoting Community Engagement Initiatives

So, you have set up your community engagement strategy. Your launch events are locked in and your online community engagement website is published. Now you need people to engage. If you want to promote your community engagement initiative effectively, then you need to put an integrated communications plan in place.

You might have planned your community engagement initiative perfectly, but if people aren’t aware of it, it’s impossible for them to engage.

That’s why it’s important to put together an integrated and multi-channel promotion plan. Promoting your community engagement initiative across multiple channels increases the chances of it being seen by diverse groups of people. The delivery of a consistent message in new contexts also helps to drive awareness, understanding, and action.

Repetition creates recognition and never underestimate how frequently a message needs to be repeated to create awareness throughout your community.

You might need to reach a certain number of people to be compliant and reach a specific demographic to get the right insights. If you use an integrated mix of paid, owned, and earned media channels, then you can get in front of a diverse cross-section of your community and figure out what promotion avenues are the most effective.

Promote your community engagement initiative on your owned media channels.

Owned media is… you guessed it, any communication channel that you own. Owned media is under the direct control of your communications team and you can use it at any time to promote your initiative. Your team has attracted the audiences that choose to engage with you on owned media channels and you have full control over the content you share on them.

Owned media can include your:

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Email lists
  • Events
  • Printed collateral

You can use your owned media in any way you like to promote your initiative and increase community engagement (as long as your approach is brand-aligned). Many of our customers populate their online community engagement website with search-friendly content and share a link to it across other owned media channels, such as social media and email campaigns.

Examples of promoting your community engagement project

When deciding on your promotion mix, it helps to look towards what owned channels have benefited you most in the past. But, it’s also great to utilize a variety of options so you can guarantee the largest reach.

For example, you may have gathered an email list of community members who have expressed an interest in hearing updates about new projects. So, it’s a great idea to send out a series of email newsletters to inform them of the new initiative and get the community involved.

Why not share posters and flyers to reach people that live, work, and travel through your community? You can include information about your community engagement initiative, along with a QR code that allows people to submit their feedback via your online community engagement tools or register for an upcoming face-to-face consultation. Check out how Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council recently achieved record-breaking community engagement for their traffic study by using bright yellow signage with QR codes in the local area.

Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council invested in bright street signage in the traffic study area.

If you already have a website that is receiving a lot of visits from your community, then you can also embed your online community engagement tools natively or share a link to your dedicated engagement page. It’s a great way to raise awareness with your community in a context that they are already familiar with.

You can also host an in-person launch event at local community gathering places to raise awareness via face-to-face interactions. Why not bring along tablet devices that encourage community members to engage with more information about your initiative online or register for updates while they are there.

Build trust by generating earned media.

Earned media is the publicity or exposure you receive when you are mentioned or written about. You cannot pay for earned media or publish it yourself. It’s the hardest type of content to create and you have the least control over what’s said or included. But, earned media is incredibly beneficial in getting authentic promotion and media interest into your community engagement project.

It can include:

  • Media coverage
  • Mentions, reviews, and online backlinks
  • Organic social media sharing and word-of-mouth

If you want to promote your community engagement initiative with earned media, you can share a press release with publishers or media outlets. Ensure that you are clear about the value that your initiative will provide to the community and the publisher’s audience. Check out this great press release that our friends over at It’s Not a Compliment wrote to promote the ‘Your Stories Matter’ initiative in Melbourne, Australia as an example.

You can also ask partners to share links on their website or social media channels to provide an extra source of traffic and domain authority. This will also help to make your engagement site more visible in search engines, such as Google or Bing.

Social proof is also highly effective and you might want to think about building authentic connections with local influencers that your community trusts. A local influencer could be an individual or a group. So, consider reaching out to local parent meet-ups, sports clubs, exercise classes, charities, politicians, interest groups, long-standing community members, or even shop owners in the area.

In order to create social media traction, make sure you pick the right platform for your audience and think about how you can create shareable content or gamify your community engagement project. Short-form video formats are incredibly popular at the moment and can help to boost your visibility beyond a standard post. Make sure you also include hashtags to boost your visibility and engagement.

Amplify your message and get in front of hard-to-reach audiences with paid media.

Paid media is any external marketing effort that involves a paid placement. You get to control the messaging and use audience targeting methods to ensure you are reaching your target stakeholders, but you pay for your advertisement to be placed in front of your audience. It can include:

  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Display ads
  • Paid social
  • Native ads
  • Paid influencers
  • Audio advertising
  • TV advertising
  • Magazine placements

Paid advertising is a great way to extend your reach with audiences that you can’t reach on your owned or earned channels. There are a lot of powerful targeting methods available. This means you can choose to place your ads in front of the community groups that you know you need to reach based on their demographics, online behaviors, and interests.

Example paid advertisement for an online community engagement project.

On top of ensuring that your targeting is finely tuned, you need to make sure that your creative is compelling. Make sure that the message you send through your ad copy and visuals is highly relevant to your target audience and what’s currently happening in the community. You should also make your message align with the advertising platform and the experience people will have when they reach your engagement site.

This can help to keep bounce rates low and conversion rates high, so that you get the most engagement out of every advertising dollar that you spend.

Provide an equitable opportunity to participate.

If you want to increase community engagement, then it’s important to promote your initiative with an integrated communications plan. We often put a lot of focus on ensuring our community engagement activities are inclusive, but making sure citizens are all equally aware of their opportunity to participate is just as important.

Receive the latest Community Engagement insights each month