Mays Business School
Venture Voices

How to Cultivate Community Engagement

Posted on November 6, 2012
Will King ’97
Marketing and Communications Director at George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
After graduating from Texas A&M in 1997, Will was commissioned and served nearly six years in the U.S. Army, splitting time between the infantry and military intelligence corps. In 2003 he moved to Israel where he lived for more than five years volunteering with an international nonprofit and working as a freelance reporter and photographer for several English-language publications. After a brief stopover in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. working as a writer for the installation newspaper, Will found my way back to Texas A&M. At the Bush Library and Museum, he is in charge of all marketing, communications, public relations, media relations, community relations, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Will love being back in Aggieland, and met the love of his life here!

At the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, community engagement is a key part of our overall marketing strategy. Nothing can compare with the value of word-of-mouth endorsement, and we work hard to give back and be an involved partner with the community that has given us so much.

Community engagement isn’t something a company just does, rather it’s a deliberate process undertaken to meet specific goals or objectives. Below are a few steps I use to build a cohesive and goal-focused community engagement plan.

Know who you are. Any marketing strategy begins first with understanding who you are as a company. If you don’t know who, then you need to do an internal self evaluation and identification. Companies grow and evolve, so frequent reevaluations will help ensure everybody is on the same page. This should be done internally – you own your brand, don’t let anybody else tell you who you are.

Determine your goals. What do you hope to achieve from engaging with the community? Why bother? Obviously businesses want to grow and generate more sales, but where community engagement can help most is in reputation and relationship building. Locals will want to do business with your company if they know who you are, or if a trusted friend endorses you.

Evaluate the landscape. Your time and resources are valuable, so make sure you are putting them to good use and engaging with the right people and organizations for your company. Determine who the community leaders and influencers are, and key organizations you should be involved with. However, just because somebody is a community leader or influencer doesn’t mean they are necessarily right for your company. Find the right people and build relationships that are complementary and brand appropriate for your company.

Craft your message. What do you want to say? Once key community leaders, influencers and organizations have been identified, make sure you know what you want to say to them in order to accomplish your community engagement goals. Messages can range from generic information about your company (your elevator speech) to messages specifically crafted to individual key leaders. For example, your message to a city councilman may be different than your message to the head of a local nonprofit or service organization. Remember, relationships are two-way streets, so include in your messaging potential benefits to those key leaders, influencers and organizations. Help them understand how a relationship with your business can be mutually beneficial going forward.

Be engaged.
The key step to community engagement is to actually be engaged. It’s not enough to sponsor an event or two from afar. Community engagement is an investment – you get out of it what you put into it. Key leaders and influencers should recognize your company’s leaders by sight, not just as a name on paper. Join local organizations and be involved and invested in their success. The more you are there for the community, the more they will be there for you and your company.

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