In times of crisis, it is more critical than ever that communities have a trusted source for factual, up to date information. Below are suggestions to help you harness the power of your EngagementHQ site to keep residents informed, meet misinformation with facts, and facilitate discussions over distance.
Step 1: Create a Dedicated Space for Crisis Communications
Centralize your communications to a singular project page, allowing residents to educate themselves, ask questions and share information in a safe and secure manner. If you are not actively having a conversation with your community, they are likely seeking resources and answers from other places, exposing you all to the harm that can occur when misinformation spreads. EngagementHQ has eight powerful tools for engagement and communication, outlined below, as well as integrated participant management analytics that give you data about how your community is engaging and the topics that mean the most to them. Supported by this knowledge, you can use EngagementHQ’s email delivery system to share critical information, invite residents into new discussions, and close transparency loops.
Here are a few early examples of clients engaging on recent events: https://livedemo.engagementhq.com/covid-19
Step 2: Choose Tools Based on the Needs of your Community
Launch the Q&A Tool to Educate
Use the Q&A tool to establish yourself as a trusted source of information for your community. Give your residents a direct line to City staff to build trust, mitigate misinformation, and get a sense of the topics of most concern to your community. Most of you are not public health experts, so it is important to be explicitly clear in the tool description area as to what types of questions you can and cannot answer. Writing specific prompts for each tool will go a long way in ensuring your engagement page stays meaningful and productive for all participants.
Tagging the questions by type or topic can help your community find answers easier, as well as minimize duplicate questions. If you do get a lot of similar questions, you can plug them into the FAQ widget on the right-hand side of your page to further educate site visitors. Another benefit of using the Q&A tool is that you can recruit staff to help answer questions by providing a standard response sheet, and also have the choice to respond privately to your community if their question is of a sensitive nature.
Use Places to Communicate the Availability of Critical Services
Drop pins on a map of your community to identify facilities and services that remain open and ready to serve. Examples may include transit hubs, city and county buildings, meal services, and health testing sites. Use different categories and colors to make your pins easy to understand and sort by type of service, so your residents can quickly find the information they need.
Additionally, you can ask community members to drop pins on the map to indicate support they may be able to provide to others, like grocery drop off or accessible services. The ability to add a survey question to the pin allows residents offering services to add contact details for others to reach out.
Open a Forum to Facilitate Community
Connectivity is critical to a community in times of crisis. Ask your residents to share their experiences around keeping well during isolation, to include: Ways to keep kids entertained indoors, tips for remote working, and community resources available to help those in need. By providing a place to come together to talk about shared challenges and experiences, you are helping to create a more connected, educated and resilient community.
Deploy a Survey to Educate and Identify Gaps
Launch a survey to understand how prepared your community is to combat the spread of disease. Helpful fact sheets from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control can help you write questions around common myths, and then you can enable transparent surveys so your residents can see their answers stacked up against the answers from other community members.
You can end the survey with questions about how your community would prefer to be communicated with during times of crisis, and then use the survey confirmation message to close the loop by sharing the response data. Through transparent surveys, residents get an opportunity to learn and you get critical data as to the gaps in both communication and education.
Share Real-Time Updates with the Newsfeed
The reality of disaster response changes daily – use the Newsfeed to quickly share updates as to facility closures, guidelines for quarantine and health safety, anything else you may know or learn about this ever-changing situation. In times of crisis, there is no such thing as over-communication. Give your residents a reason to think of your engagement site first when they want to seek new information. Building trust through open communication will help carry your community through this crisis.
Crowdsource Stories to Foster Empathy
The Stories tool gives you the power to pre-moderate public submissions, allowing you to crowdsource personal narratives from your community without any risk to your participants or organization. In trying times, stories can be healing, powerful connectors. Residents can open up and share their own experiences, and benefit from reading the stories of others, which can go a long way in creating empathy across divides.
Ask for Ideas to Help
Launch the ideas tool to crowdsource resources or offers of help during times of need, such as information about local meal services, restaurants that may still be open, and other critical community assets.
Use a Guestbook for Public Comment
A Guestbook can be used to take public comment during your virtual events, as it allows participants to contribute open-ended feedback without the ability to comment back and forth to each other.
Take a Snapshot of Sentiment with Polls
Quick polls are great to get a snapshot of community sentiment. You could use this tool to quickly identify areas for improvement in communication or services, or ask where your organization should be spending resources. If you commit to continuing to poll the community throughout times of crisis, you will be able to see how sentiment or priorities change over time.
Step 3: Plug in Other Resources
Learn From Our Previous Crisis-Related Work
Bang the Table has helped clients through disaster before, most recently during the bushfires in Australia. View our Emergency Management and Disaster Recovery webinar, Online Digital Deliberation Webinar, or sign up for our Social Distancing webinar.
Ask the Right Questions
The key to good engagement comes from encouraging open dialogue, and open dialogue is the result of great questioning. If you need help framing your questions for online engagement, check out our eBook How to Ask Engaging Questions.
Livestream Meetings into Project Pages
Continue to host your meetings and events remotely, inviting your community to watch and participate from the comfort and safety of their own space. You can easily embed a live stream directly into your EngagementHQ project using YouTube or UStream. Universal streaming tools allow for free, easy embedding.
Integrate SMS to Further Your Reach
Reach out to your Engagement Manager to ask about integrating text messaging (SMS) capabilities into your EngagementHQ site and communications plan. You will then be able to share real-time updates or ask on the go questions. Give your community the option to get real-time updates directly to their personal devices.
Reach Out for Expert Advice
In a time of chaos and crisis, please know you have our global team of engagement experts to lean on and trust for guidance and support. Whether you are needing to get a new project up and running quickly or help with your digital engagement strategy, we’re here for you. Just let us know how we can help.