Akin to press relations, community outreach involves finding all of the community groups that communicate with your company. Community outreach tends to look beyond corporate media relationships to the grassroots connections you can make for your business, no matter your size or focus.
Community Outreach Benefits
- Softer sale
- Authentic connections
- Shows values
- Qualifies leads
- Brings people together
Community Outreach Tactics
Community Outreach Tactic 1: Pursue social good
What causes do you care about? How do you want to make a difference? Where do you donate charitable funds?
Social good spaces are where you can meet a lot of people whose values align with your own because these spaces are actually built around those efforts.
There are a million social good spaces out there, so searching for a space can become a time-consuming process. Fortunately, social good organizations tend to communicate clearly about what their mission is, so it should be easy for you to quickly tell whether or not their efforts align with yours. Research different programs and applications for things you care about and send them content.
Social good opportunities also carry direct business advantages: they clarify what you stand for, build goodwill, and save you money on taxes. If you launch your own social good project, remember to send out a press release about it. You may as well tell the world and inspire others to do something good, too.
Community Outreach Tactic 2: Join trade and professional groups
Every profession brings a different mix of people. If you work in construction, you probably know roofers, plumbers, window and cabinet companies, architects, designers, lawyers, and many other people who are in and around the construction process. Since we are a writing company, we tend to network a lot with marketers such as web developers, graphic designers, PR teams, social media strategists, and other roles in the marketing profession.
You are probably already thinking about the spaces that are relevant to your own industry. Go network in those spaces. They offer a lot of room for business growth.
List of Professional Group Examples
- Practitioner (Role) Groups
- Industry (Vertical) Groups
- Local (Geography) Groups
- Age (Generational) Groups
- Identity (Culture) Groups
There are plenty of other ways to sort and find groups to network with. Remember: in addition to joining groups that are directly relevant to your industry, also find groups frequented by your prospects. If a client has been ideal for you, network in their industry space. For example, if you are a cleaning company who has found success with medium-sized businesses in tall buildings, attend events that those companies go to. You can find a lot of information about a company just by Googling them.
Those who you compete with may still trade leads with you, or even want to partner up on something fun and prosperous, so be sure to be among others in your industry sometimes, too.
You likely already know who many of those folks are.
Once you find the groups you want to engage with, check out all the ways you can get in touch with them.
Possible sub-distribution channels within community outreach include:
- Online forums- Usually on social media.
- Luncheons- Rubber chicken and conversation.
- Galas- Fancy shmancy suit and tie stuff.
- Educational Events- Workshops, speeches, and presentations.
- General Networking- Coffee, bar nights, bowling, whatever.
Your industry also likely has a ton of certifications and awards. Consider applying for both.
If you’re a B2B business, you will probably also see a ton of opportunities for your clients to connect with their customers. Let them know about those as a matter of service, and build ways for them to make it happen. (Customer experience hacking makes life better for everybody. Boom!)
Community Outreach Tactic 3: Join business chambers
Business chambers are easy to find. They operate much in the same way as professional and trade groups, and you can find them the same way. Structurally, they offer similar opportunities, but are composed only of business owners. These groups have a lot of decision makers in them.
Community Outreach Tactic 4: Seek out opportunities from government bodies
Government groups are also fairly easy to find, and there are a ton of them out there. If they are important to your business or could add a prosperous dynamic to what you do, check them out. To get started, search for Small Business Administration opportunities in your area. You can also search for economic development councils, especially ones that are related to local public universities or municipalities.
When we think of the government, a lot of people think about elected officials. The government definitely is inclusive of those folks and their staff, but it is much, much more. There are departments at the local, state, and federal level all putting out projects and vying for budgets and attention. There is a market there.
You can also find quasi-governmental bodies, such as public commissions, public-private partnerships, or public honors for private entities. Maybe you can get a client an award at City Hall.
Community Outreach Tactic 5: Attend art and culture events
Museums, galleries, and recreational establishments all hold different events with paintings, DJs, discussion groups, movie screenings, concerts, tastings, and plenty more. A few are bound to overlap with your interests and purpose. Go connect. Have fun!
Not sure where to start? Ask yourself: what is the largest cultural event in your area? The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest annual event in mine. It has a ton of committees and individual tents where people need assistance for the day. You can network there just by getting involved in the organization.
Community Outreach Tactic 6: Go for the goal at sports and recreation events
A lot of wealthy people love sports, and not just the most popular sports. In most large American cities, football, baseball, basketball, and perhaps hockey are the biggest sports. However, squash is a well known game in many parts of the world, and is a favorite of people who are wealthy enough to have memberships to very nice squash courts. If you network with the squash crowd, you can sell them your service, or you can sell a service specifically around squash. Either is an opportunity made real by those willing to network in squash circles.
Community Outreach Tactic 7: Support schools
Kids deserve to learn in a good environment, so schools can use all the help they can get. There are opportunities at all levels of education to get involved.
- Talk to classes
- Join PTOs
- Support a good policy
- Launch a scholarship
There are certainly good business opportunities here, but make sure they follow true goodwill if you are going to go in that direction. Schools are a good place to engage and be helpful as you network.
Community Outreach Tips
Community Outreach Tip 1: Make a non-mutually exclusive list of all stakeholder audiences
Write down literally all possible stakeholders for your company. Every kind of consumer, influencer, community member, media outlet, regulator, partner, etc. Start with categories; you do not have to be specific.
Once you have all of your audience categories listed, you can use the list to further guide research into those audiences. You may already have a list of names in a company CRM. You can also easily hire people who will build large lists that can help you take shortcuts as long as you give those vendors strong direction on what information is to be gathered.
Community Outreach Tip 2: Focus your efforts
Unless being in a ton of different communities is essential to your brand, as might be the case with a PR firm, be judicious about community outreach. You do not need to be in every area. Find the ones that make sense for you and focus on those.
For example, if you want to position your business to win government contracts, you probably need to get good at responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and get to know the people who draw those up so you know the best way to respond to them. Public meetings to discuss those bids are eye-opening if you have never attended them.
Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas is currently undergoing a $1.5 billion airport makeover that started in 2014. That money was bid out to the public by the City of Houston, who owns the airport. When a bunch of people show up to a meeting about how to bid on more than a billion dollars in drywall, carpet, ceilings, floors, fabrication, transportation, catering, and whatever else is needed to complete that bid, that’s an opportunity for many businesses to find clients.
Where do you need to go to find those clients fast so you don’t scour the whole world in search of something undefined?
Community Outreach Tip 3: Connect people when possible
People love to be connected to other people in a mutually beneficial way. Think of other people and connect them with a well-worded email or text about how great they both are and how you thought they might work well together. The people you connect will benefit from their relationship with one another, and both parties will remember you as a connector who is worth keeping in their network. Not only do you get good business karma, but they will also be likely to return the favor down the road.
Community Outreach Tip 4: Let genuine interest guide you
Something about the communities you engage in must ring true to you. Otherwise, hire someone else to do your community outreach work. It is okay if a group is not for you, but then you are not the one meant to network there.