As we increasingly focus our efforts to engage with online and social media groups, which are easily managed from behind our screens or via mobile devices, are we undervaluing face-to-face dialogues?
It’s all too easy to find yourself caught-up drafting social media guidelines to respond to Twitter trolls or searching for and building key online influencers. However, when your business has a direct impact within a local community it’s important to get out there and meet your stakeholders. Speaking to locals on their turf will help to breakdown any preconceived us versus them tension. You’ll also be able to gain valuable insider information and meet the different types of stakeholders who make up the local community.
Working with and engaging with local communities is at the heart of what we do at Local Dialogue so here are some of our top tips for businesses seeking to engage with their communities:
- Know your stakeholders – what are the key issues and concerns affecting them in their community? Acknowledging and understanding the small issues that often have the largest impact on local communities shows you respect and understand stakeholders, which they will in turn reciprocate.
- Be consistent with your engagement – create a timetable of activity and be sure to keep to it. This will position your business as a force for good and not just ticking a corporate box.
- Bring your message to your stakeholders – Don’t expect them to come to you to seek our your communications. It’s often worth piggybacking onto pre-existing events through sponsorship, offering volunteers or venue space.
- Seek out and identify key community champions and get them involved in early stage conversations – local stakeholders will feel reassured receiving updates from ‘one of their own’.
- Be honest, even if you know the information you’re giving out may not go down well. – don’t try to hide or twist figures, the truth will always come out and will ultimately push you further away from your stakeholders. Instead focus on how you can move forward to find a resolution
The local community is a powerful body; despite its complex make up, it can rally the troops in an instant. Although, it will always welcome new people and businesses into the fold. So when planning your next community update, instead of sending out a faceless email or tweet, how about visiting your stakeholders in their community instead.