The Engagement Formula: How to Effectively Reach Your Audiences
Community and stakeholder engagement are in danger of becoming something people tune-out. Often it’s because engagement processes are too rushed, too superficial, and miss important stakeholder groups.
Losing key stakeholders when you need their input to succeed is something engagement professionals know should be avoided. So how do you build an engagement plan that hits the mark? You can start by making sure you’ve considered all the stakeholders that need to be engaged as part of your process.
Especially when it comes to engaging the public – how can you make sure that you’re reaching people who reflect the demographics of the community you serve? And when we say demographics, this includes everything from race and ethnicity, to language, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, gender identity, age, and religion – among others.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing engagement activities for your stakeholders. Remember – people have different needs and interests, so it’s important to put in the legwork to understand exactly who you’re engaging.
A Few Tips:
1. Don’t Ignore the Data: Have you explored recent census results and Statistics Canada information to tell you about the population in your area? You’ll learn a lot about the make-up of your community which can help you which languages materials should be in, the media outlets you use to share information, and which social platforms your stakeholders are likely active on.
2. Leverage Internal Expertise: Within your organization, have you talked to folks who might have relationships with the very stakeholders you want to reach? Have a conversation with your communications and stakeholder relations resources, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion teams, and others to see what they can offer.
3. Don’t Discount Groups that Serve Different Parts of the Community: Some community members can be challenging to reach through traditional engagement activities. But their perspectives are important. Think about how you might get their input through groups that represent their interests. For example, have you considered organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness to reach that population? Or how about organizations that provide services to seniors?
4. Be Purposeful: For each stakeholder, think to yourself “how can I connect with them?” and “what information or input might they have that we can benefit from by engaging them?” People are offering up their time to participate, so it’s important when structuring your plan to be clear on what you’re engaging them on and being purposeful with their time.
5. It’s All About Accessibility: It should be easy for your stakeholders to participate in engagement activities. Bring the engagement process to them. When you understand your stakeholders and what accessibility looks like to them, you’re in a better position to recommend the best ways to reach them. For some, it could be digital surveys and direct engagement on social media. For others, maybe it’s a direct 1:1 conversation.
Engagement requires work on your end to make sure your plan thoroughly considers your stakeholders. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. You’ll be left with better results that meet stakeholder needs, stronger relationships for current and future projects, and improved reputational capital for your organization. Sounds like a win-win.