Successful promotion can make or break your online consultation.
Letting people know about the opportunity to get involved in your project is critical to the success of any community engagement process. Online community engagement is no different from traditional engagement methods in this respect.
All things being equal, more than 90% of your consultation “traffic” will come from four sources:
- Via a link from your organisation website
- Via direct URL
- Via an organic Google search
- Via social media
This may vary if you have access to a database for direct marketing; hence the value in building your online community over time.
7 promotion strategies for online consultation
1. Provide a visible link on your organisation’s homepage
You need to convince your web manager that community engagement is a core function of your organisation and that your online consultation hub deserves a chance to shine. This will NOT happen if the link to your online consultation is buried five pages deep on your organisation’s website. You need a very clear one-click link; whether via a banner advertisement or from the main navigation bar.
2. Develop a memorable web address
You have lots of choices when it comes to picking a URL for your consultation hub and/or specific consultation. Our advice, keep it short, pithy and plain English. Avoid acronyms. Avoid made-up words. Avoid using the long form name of the project.
Generally, our advice is to build recognition of the consultation hub URL through time by repeatedly promoting it, rather than project-specific URLs. This way your stakeholders will be exposed to the breadth of projects you are consulting about.
If a project is particularly high profile and strategically important to the organisation, you can always purchase a project specific URL and redirect it to the project site on your consultation portal.
- Make sure the URL is prominently displayed on all of your project collateral
- Hand out leaflets or postcards with your URL prominently displayed at public events and popular gathering points; in the mall, at railway stations, clubs, and public libraries etc
3. Use traditional media outlets
- Distribute a traditional media release with a snappy headline to your local media outlets, e.g. “Council wants you to Bang the Table about…..”
- Write an opinion piece for the local newspaper – chances are that they are desperate for content.
- Get on the local radio and talk the issue up… remember to mention the URL
- If you are in a regional area and the issue is big enough, get on regional TV – WIN, Capital, NBN – and talk up the project.
4. Direct marketing
- For Councils, put a note in with your next rates notice or other mail outs
- Direct email your entire staff to let them know about the project – make the URL prominent – and ask them to pass on the email to their friends and family
- Direct email relevant local community organisations as above
5. Network marketing
- Ask local libraries, cyber cafes and other places where people access the web to display signage and/or instructions for joining the consultation.
- Talk to local schools who, for some issues, may be interested in assisting pupils to participate.
- List your consultation on active local Facebook pages and other social networking sites.
6. Social media & online marketing
- Targeted Facebook advertisements
- Google “Adwords”
- Banner advertisements on relevant websites
- Create a Twitter #hashtag for the project and use a place name #hashtag for location based issues
- Targeted Linkedin advertisements
7. Use Signage
Often your community engagement project will be relevant to a specific place in your neighbourhood. Make sure you tell people passing by about changes or upgrades by making your engagement highly visible.
- Use your branded signage to tell people about any changes
- Direct people to where they can get involved
- Summarise the project