Whether planning a virtual town hall or creating an online survey to gauge interest in a new government initiative, inclusive digital engagement is the key to keeping your community connected and informed.
Virtual engagement opens up new ways of connecting with communities, offering opportunities to reach broader demographics in a more inclusive manner. By focusing an engagement strategy on inclusivity, feedback will be more representative of the whole community.
Traditional outreach methods such as town halls tend to give skewed, and often marginal representations of a community’s perceptions. However, online engagement can reach communities in a far more inclusive way, allowing local governments to collect more accurate community perceptions and opinions.
Digital community engagement makes it easy for community members to participate on their own schedule, which has shown to increase participation by 10 to 100 times over traditional, face-to-face engagement.
Build your connected community through virtual engagement
When crafting community outreach, clarity of voice is key. This is why it’s important to create messaging with a single source of truth, helping guide community education and mitigate disinformation. Inclusive engagement strategies provide a safe and unrestricted space for residents to provide feedback, which is often challenging in face-to-face engagement where participants might hold back from voicing their concerns or asking important questions.
While in-person events can be great for direct connection with communities, busy individuals simply won’t have time to attend. Community members with health risks also won’t be able to attend in-person events and will need an option to be informed outside of public events. Other groups that will face difficulties accessing in-person events are non-native English speakers and hearing- and vision-impaired community members. To connect with these residents, a virtual engagement strategy is vital.
There’s a multitude of options to connect online, which can present a challenge when determining the best strategy to reach specific audiences. Social media is a prime example: while it’s one of the most accessible ways for communities to connect, it can be risky for brand management. While you can push a specific message, you can’t control the ensuing dialogue that may come up in comments.
Rather than falling back on existing social media platforms to reach residents, online engagement platforms such as EngagementHQ are more effective in keeping your community involved, interacting, and highly connected in an online format.
Bridging the gap: online strategies for engagement
Traditional engagement methods such as town halls and public meetings typically attract the same voices, while the feedback received tends to only come from those with the loudest voices. The opinions and views of the majority are lost in traditional engagement methods, either because they exclude busy individuals, non-native English speakers, those without access to transportation, or individuals who are at higher risk when in large groups of people. Without full representation of the greater community, feedback will lack cultural diversity and provide a narrow view of your community’s sentiment for your project or message.
Bang the Table’s EngagementHQ software utilizes innovative tools to keep diverse communities connected, and addresses in-person engagement issues with the following online communication strategies:
- Ensure accessibility of your site. With clear headings, videos with closed captioning, and image alt text for better screen reader translation, all community members will be able to engage with your content.
- Offer multilingual engagement. For diverse communities, multilingual communication should be available for all online engagement projects.
- Address low literacy by drawing on different digital formats. Messaging that uses plain text, embedded videos, infographics, and digital storytelling is helpful to reach broader audiences.
- Deploy advocacy programs. Advocacy programming designed to influence stakeholders will help drive positive change, thus benefiting more minorities within the community.
- Design more effective public meetings. If you’re planning public meetings, design them in such a way that complements and ushers in more online engagement.
EngagementHQ’s software provides interactive tools such as forums, surveys, and Q&As for communities to learn about and provide feedback on various projects and initiatives. The platform also allows for live streaming, which is an effective way to broadcast important events, meetings, panels, or live interactive Q&A sessions with stakeholders.
Online engagement strategies and tools work by empowering community members with equal access to a single source of information, while also providing an opportunity to give feedback and interact with one another while staying involved with your projects. This type of engagement is foundational to creating and maintaining trusting, meaningful relationships with communities.