Many of us can say we’re active in our communities as individuals, but how many of us can say the same for the businesses we own or work for as well? If you consider an ‘annual event sponsorship’ the extent of your company’s community outreach strategy then you’re missing out on some of the most impactful relationships you could ever have.
We’re living and working in the age of social media and that means people are going to voice their opinions and talk about you whether you want them to or not. Think about Cam Newton, Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. It’s been several years since their loss during Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos and we all remember how Newton was criticized for what was perceived as a lack of effort on the field and for wearing his emotions on his sleeve during the post-game press conference.
Some argue that Newton was held to a different set of standards and unfairly critiqued as a ‘sore loser.’ Some feel the opposite. One former linebacker, Bill Romanowski, publicly insulted him on twitter, calling him a “boy” and stated his career in the NFL would be short lived. Similar comments made in social media imply that his behavior during the press conference was a direct reflection of his character rather then looking at the root of his frustration – Newton had just lost the biggest game of his entire career.
I mention this because Peyton Manning displayed similar behaviors at a press conference in 2010 after losing to the Saints, however he received much less push back and no one questioned his integrity or character. Perception plays a huge part in how our company’s efforts and messages are received. There are many complexities to winning favor from your desired target audience. Don’t wait until you’re unfairly critiqued before you decide to look for help.
Community outreach might sound simple but it requires a comprehensive strategy and should be executed carefully. Living and working in this age of social media means that it’s time for your company to participate in and guide the conversation about your brand. As business owners we are comfortable speaking to our target audience – we advertise, create innovative marketing and PR campaigns, and turn to social media for that added touch. Yet many of us struggle to communicate with members of our target market – citing a lack of time, or limited knowledge of what to do or say during these activities whether they be initiated on or offline.
Putting in the work and resources required to execute an effective community outreach and engagement strategy can be challenging, especially when you’re doing it alone. But you can do it. At times, it may seem like you have more important tasks to check off the list, but I’m warning you – don’t underestimate the impact social listening and grassroots community engagement can have on your company’s marketing efforts or bottom line. Remember, someone, somewhere is talking about you, securing a reference about you and making the decision to do business with you – and you aren’t even a participant in the conversation. But developing a strong community engagement plan will ensure that your voice is heard even when it’s someone else doing the speaking.