You’ve got a solid audience defined for your company. Your tribe is engaged, actively participating on your social media platforms, purchasing services and talking up your organization to their friends. It’s a well-oiled machine.
But behind the scenes, there’s a significant audience group that plays a monumental role in reputation management for organizations: community connections. Often forgotten, your community should be a priority audience group with key messages and tactics designed specifically for them.
Who are your community connections?
Community connections are people or organizations who have an interest in your business or industry (not necessarily financially, but through your network). They may also be referred to as “stakeholders,” “industry partners,” or “circle of influence” but the meaning remains the same. The bottom line is, these are people who should know who you are and what you are up to. Not only is there an opportunity for them to help spread the word about your company, but a strong partnership with your community sets you up with a solid reputation foundation. You aren’t just a random company. You are connected with the right people.
Still not sure who we’re talking about? Consider your industry associations (local, provincial and national), professional development organizations, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, business associations…the list goes on.
What does your community need to know?
This isn’t about the day-to-day updates that you’re sharing with staff, clients and consumers. They don’t necessarily need to know about your weekly specials or daily sales figures. Rather, consider sharing some of the larger projects that are taking place at your organization. Important announcements, leadership changes, annual updates, and new initiatives are great options. And if you’re a new company, let these connections know you’re here!
How do you share the information?
The most effective community connections start with in-person meetings and then using technology to stay connected in between. Invest the time up front to introduce yourself to key players at the various community organizations. Meet for coffee, learn more about what they do as a company and share your own story.
Once you have an established relationship (and sign-off to email them), consider a quarterly newsletter that is targeted to these individuals and groups. Keep it focused and high-level with relevant information for what they need to know. If you don’t have enough content for quarterly, send something only when you have important news to share.
Even if you opt for a digital support tool for your community connections, ongoing follow up in person remains critical to build the relationship.
Timing is everything
A key strategy for community connections is advance notice of change and initiatives. Even if it’s a only a half-day head start, consider when you can give your connections a heads up on something coming down the pipe. Build tactics for this audience group directly into your integrated communications strategies, both your overarching plan and any change communication plans throughout the year.
If there’s a crisis, the last thing you want is your trusted community connections to find out about an issue on Twitter or the evening news when they could have heard it from you first.
The bottom line: invest your time
Paid and organic marketing efforts only go so far. Community connections are a significant opportunity to build your brand, establish your reputation and above all, build trust in your company. From advocating on your behalf, to introducing you to potential collaborators, these are the connections who are going to help you build your business.
Let’s grab coffee soon!