Agencies, non-profits, governments, school districts — they all need to reach out to their communities from time to time for different reasons:
To raise awareness about issues that affect everyone (COVID), to share important information (building code updates), to educate the community (local homelessness), or to provide information about a particular topic (passing a bond).
To be successful, some initial considerations need to be handled up front. Number one: the organization launching the outreach should make sure all stakeholders are on the same page as to the overall desired outcome.
Once the goal is identified, the target audience must be defined. It is crucial to make sure you’re reaching the intended group(s) and not wasting energy on those unaffected by the reasons for your outreach.
This includes defining what media tools to use to reach these people. You’ll want to research where and to what the audience(s) pay attention. You can create a great outreach program, but if it doesn’t reach the right audience and/or is presented in media the audience doesn’t follow, it will fail.
Possible outreach tools could include boosted social media, digital advertising (including the digital versions of regional newspapers), brochure distribution, having a presence at local/regional events such as county fairs and job fairs, radio spots, broadcast PSAs, offering events such as public comment sessions, and ads placed in relevant newsletters.
The Timeframe and Budget
Then you’re ready to determine your budget and preferred time frame. These are important guardrails that keep the project organized, focused and under control. To create the budget, you’ll need to gather costs for creative services and media buys. Any public outreach program can theoretically take up unlimited time and money resources, but that is never a good approach.
With all this defined and in hand, you’ll be ready to identify and recruit those who will design and execute the program. In a group, it is best for people to have defined tasks with deadlines where possible, and for the group to know who is responsible for what.
Summarizing the Steps
- Define the desired outcome for the program and come to agreement on the goal.
- Identify the target audience. There may be more than one.
- Develop a list of media tools with the best potential for engaging the target audience, and rank them in order of perceived usefulness.
- Determine the preferred time frame and budget for the outreach. Then get costs for creative and media and assign tasks.
I have developed and helped manage many public outreach efforts over the years, and have found this approach to be extremely useful. If you have such a project in mind, I would love to talk to you about how I can help.