CitizenLab is at the vanguard of thinking and action to help cities integrate the kinds of mechanisms to sustain effective democracy – the kind that matters to citizens in their everyday life.
When setting up a community engagement project, a strong communication strategy is the most important tool in your toolbox.
This article is an extract of our Essential Communication Guide, which features tips from experts and inspiring case studies to help local governments launch online engagement projects. You can download the full resource here.
How do you describe your project’s purpose? How do you reach your target audience? And how do you inspire citizens to engage?
A communication strategy that engages your community doesn’t require a huge budget, but it does require planning, creativity and consistent effort. That’s why we’ve created an extensive communications guide to help you set up your strategy, craft the right messages throughout the process, and boost the engagement of your project. You can download the full resource here.
Below, we’ll lift a tip of the veil and dive into four key things to remember.
1. Mix different channels
When communicating about project online, it’s a good idea to combine different channels. If you manage to mix emailing, direct traffic, website referrals and social media, you’ve struck gold. There are different ways to tap into each of these channels. If you have the budget, you can invest in extensive campaigns and reach a wider online audience. But even through organic reach and targeted messages, you can create awareness and increase engagement on your platform. Besides, combining these four channels in your communication strategy also makes sure you reach a diverse audience.
That’s that for online channels. But some of your audiences might not always be easy to reach in the digital realm. To boost the impact of your communication strategy, you’ll have to spread the word offline, as well. Combining online and offline channels is a sure-fire way to diversify the audience that hears about your project. Get press involved, send physical introduction letters or invitations, or collaborate with local partners who can help you tap into a new audience.
2. Start with a bang
A good start is half the battle. When launching a citizen engagement project, a strong start really makes all the difference. If your residents hear about your project in the very first week, all messages after that will serve as reminders. A kick-off event, for example, is a great way to not only mobilise the press, but also genuinely engage with your community and raise awareness through word-of-mouth. Another great way to leave an impression is to craft a strong, consistent, and visual look-and-feel. This helps to make your project both memorable and recognisable.
3. Quick sharing of results
Once you’ve launched your project, it’s important to keep the momentum high. Don’t let your residents’ attention fizzle! Instead, keep them updated as soon as you have something to share. A quick follow-up on the initial messages keeps everything fresh in the public conscience and drives more engagement. It offers an opportunity for new citizens to get involved, but also engages your community with the progress and shows the participants that their voice matters.
You shouldn’t start spamming your citizens with emails, but sharing regular updates about the project’s developments is crucial. What is the current status of a project? Which ideas are popular? What are the newest ideas? Do other citizens agree with these ideas? And what happens when the project moves into a new phase? By sharing insights, specific ideas, or clear calls to action on social media, in your existing newsletters, and via partners, you can boost community engagement.
4. Find ambassadors!
A good way to draw attention to your platform is by convincing politicians to share personal messages about the project. This immediately gives the project a political layer of legitimacy and importance. Besides, messages that are shared from politicians’ personal accounts will lead to a wider online reach and prove to your community that their (elected) leaders support the project.
Besides politicians, you can also approach (community) influencers or partners to share your message. The wider your network of ambassadors, the wider your reach will ultimately be.
How did we learn this? From our community! In our free guide, you’ll find multiple cases of how local governments have benefited from these communications strategies. Download it here and set up a strong communication strategy for your citizen engagement project.