You’ve Built it, But They’re Not Coming


You’ve hosted open houses, you’ve asked questions on social media, you’ve created an online feedback form. But you’re still not getting the community engagement you want – and need. You’ve built it, but they’re not coming. Here’s what you might be missing.

Scattered Approach

Successful engagement should be modeled after successful communication. Meaning that disjointed messaging, erratic social media postings, and half-hearted web content won’t work. Think of your engagement efforts as a campaign: define your goal, your strategies, and THEN define your tools and tactics.

Asking People to Come to You

People are busy. So. Dang. Busy. If you truly want engagement, make participation easy. That means meeting people where they already are – online and off. Your strategy should include ample opportunity for engagement on popular social media sites as well as in person engagement at existing community events. Don’t make people work too hard to engage with their government.

Ignoring Barriers

Sure, the 5 p.m. after work open house event works perfectly for your schedule, but don’t forget those people whose lives don’t mirror yours. Providing childcare, choosing locations accessible by transit, scheduling events that don’t require a two-hour commitment – all of these things can help boost participation.

Tone Deaf

The tone you use can speak louder than the actual words. Is your tone welcoming and authentic? Are you engaged and ready to listen? Or are you condescending and dismissive?

Your Cookies Are Subpar

OK, this isn’t the make or break factor in your community engagement event, but we can all agree that bland cookies are gross. Weak coffee is even worse.

Addressing these factors can help boost participation, but it only works if you’re committed to the process. Before you begin any sort of community engagement campaign, ask yourself three key questions to lay the foundation for success:

  • How willing am I to listen?
  • Where can the community add value?
  • How can I make participation easy?

Now you’re ready. Go splurge on some really good cookies.

The original of this post was featured on Govloop. Kim Newcomer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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