Recently, Watermark was asked about our public engagement approach and why we thought it was so effective. The answer was easy, we listen first. Most organizations have a list of all the things they want to tell their customers, stakeholders, leads and employees. The list of what to tell people is usually very long. Almost never do organizations tell us they want to hear what their customers think, what their stakeholders need or what their employees, their internal customers, are concerned with. They are so busy focused on what to tell them, how they want to tell them and where they want their messages placed, that they miss the boat entirely. Organizations that spend the resources to understand perform far better than those that do not.
Community and public engagement require a two-way dialogue.
If you are just looking to simply be an impression and want to skip engagement that is an option and one that most take. Real stakeholder engagement is not that simple. Community engagement means involvement. Stakeholders are no longer spectators when they are engaged, but rather, they are part of the process, the project, the outcome. Cultivating community engagement requires understanding before you spend the effort to be understood.
Here are some ways you might consider better understanding your target audience:
- Polling or surveys
- Focus Groups
- Voicemail hotlines
- Online chat
- Community workshops
- Town Hall meetings
- Social media
- Comment cards
- Email comments
When you understand your target audience, what they need, what they want and their expectations, your messages can be tailored and extremely more effective. The goal really is to be heard, and the best way to do that is to listen. If you need help developing an effective outreach or community & public engagement plan, call us. We can help.