What is Community Outreach
Community Outreach can be a really powerful tool for your marketing. Without going out and engaging prospects who have common issues, you are taking a huge risk. You have a limited time to get in front of them while they need what you offer. But many of you might be wondering What is community outreach?
Community outreach is a term used in PR and marketing to describe the process of interacting with your target audience through social media. Community outreach is the building of relationships with your customers or prospective customers. A community outreach activity can be something as simple as publishing an article on your blog, to something more complex like getting on a conference call with individual customers. It’s all about connecting with customers in meaningful ways
With the rise of social media, there are more ways to reach out to your community than ever before. Community outreach requires you to proactively create value for your community, followed by building relationships. If the results are successful the community will treat you as their representative. That’s where the importance of having a good reputation comes into play.
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What is Community Outreach
Community outreach is the effort of a company or an organization to provide any kind of support, resources, or services to its community. It’s not free money or free services. Community outreach is an effort by a company or organization to add value to its environment.
This could be as simple as advertising a local business in the company newsletter, or as elaborate as volunteering at a volunteer-run event. Community outreach encompasses every type of support, resources, and service a company or organization provides to a community.
Many large companies and nonprofit organizations have established programs to support their local communities. Some programs provide financial donations, while others provide donations of resources, such as office supplies or computers. Some companies provide their employees as volunteers at events, such as parades or fairs. Some companies even hire employees based on community involvement.
Companies that engage in community outreach have found that their outreach efforts help attract new customers, increase employee morale, and improve a company’s public image. Through their outreach efforts, companies also, promote positive images of their communities.
Thus, community outreach benefits a company and, in turn, benefits the community.
Companies and individuals can engage in community outreach in many ways. Some companies plan their community outreach efforts in advance. Others become involved in their communities as they observe needs or opportunities. If you are unsure of where to start, consider your interests and talents. For example, if you enjoy working with children, you might want to volunteer at a school.
In simple words, the answer to the question as to what is community outreach can be divided into:
- Community outreach is an organization’s way of reaching out to its neighbors. Outreach is social, not technical. It is social because outreach is about talking to people, not doing things to people. Outreach is social because outreach is not a business plan.
- Outreach is technical because outreach is about the technologies people use, not the technologies an organization builds. It is technical because organizations sometimes use outreach as a social strategy, marketing their products by appealing to the goodwill of their neighbors.
- Outreach is political because outreach is about how organizations present themselves to their neighbors. It is political because organizations sometimes use outreach as a political strategy, helping their neighbors by associating themselves with unrelated causes.
Why do community outreach
Now that you understand what is community outreach. It is important to understand the importance of it for businesses. Community outreach for marketing is probably as old as marketing itself. In the early days of advertising, businesses started sponsoring sports teams, public parks, and other public events. A century ago, businesses sponsored their own local newspapers, hoping to get free advertising. These early community marketing programs were aimed at getting free advertising.
But nowadays, businesses sponsor community programs to improve their image in the community. If a company sponsors a local theater company, it is not trying to get free advertising, it is hoping to get a reputation as a company that cares about the arts. As another example, if a company sponsors a children’s hospital, it is not trying to drum up a new business, it is trying to show itself to be a company that cares about the community.
Business people sometimes talk about “giving back” to the community. But giving money away is a poor way to improve your image. Businesses want to give back, but in a way that shows they care.
Businesses have to make a profit and to make profits, you need customers. But communities are formed by people, so you can’t just demand customers. Communities have to care about their customers. Every company needs a community. So in order to build a community businesses need to understand what is community outreach and how to do it.
Customers are first and most important to a company because without them you wouldn’t have a business. But for customers to be customers, they can’t just be anybody. They have to be somehow part of the community, and that gives them power.
So part of what makes a community a community is that customers have the power to make companies do things they wouldn’t do on their own. And that can make them rich.
Apple makes computers; Dell makes computers. But Dell’s customers are the people who don’t care about computers; they go to Dell because Dell has the lowest prices. Apple’s customers are the people who use computers, and they care about computers. Apple’s customers spend money, they buy computers, subscribe to Apple’s online services, and they attend Apple’s meetings.
Apple’s customers are also the first people to find out when a new Apple product comes out: they read about it in magazines, they hear rumors, and they read about it on blogs. Because Apple’s customers care about computers, they tell other people who use computers, and those people tell other people.
How to do community outreach for your business
Once you’ve understood what is community outreach, the next question is how to do it. Every business needs customers, and the best way for any business to find customers is through direct, personal contact with people in their target market. But here’s the thing: people don’t buy things based on what you say. They buy based on what they think.
When your business is new, nobody knows about it. You have to talk to everyone. You have to get them to trust you. You have to give them something worth referring to. (And you have to give them something worth talking about.) When you succeed, you no longer have to do outreach. Your customers come to you. And you also have more time to spend doing your other work.
So, how do you do outreach? Simple:
- Build something people want.
- Build something people want to talk about.
- Build something they can’t live without.
- Build something that’s so good people look forward to buying it.
You probably already think of your business as serving the community in some meaningful way. You might have made a commitment to diversity, hiring veterans, providing good jobs, paying a living wage, to supporting a local cause. But do you take the step from thought to action? You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?
The answer to what is community outreach doesn’t have to be difficult. And the ways to do it are very simple. Here are a few ideas:
- Sponsor a Little League team.
- Donate to a local museum.
- Encourage your employees to take a day off from work and spend it volunteering.
- Host a fund-raiser for a local charity.
- Be a sponsor for a summer youth sports program.
- Give a gift certificate to a restaurant that employs local workers.
- Give a gift certificate to a restaurant that trains its workers for jobs in the restaurant business.
- Sponsor an art class at a local school.
- Sponsor a literacy program.
- Sponsor a school field trip.
- If you have a store, hire people from the community to work there.
- Sponsor a community festival.
- Sponsor a poetry reading.
- Sponsor a lecture series.
- Sponsor a community play.
- Sponsor a theater group.
- Sponsor a community choir.
- Sponsor a music program.
- Sponsor a computer class.
And the possibilities are endless, depending upon what you are interested in when it comes to community outreach.
How to prioritize different outreach activities
It is hard to predict what outreach activities will have the most impact. But once you have identified one or more areas you want to focus on, you can usually figure out which one will have the best payoff. The best approach to picking a winning outreach activity is to start with the outreach you have already done.
Once you have a sense of what community outreach activities you have already accomplished, and what still need to be done, you have two choices:
- You can keep doing the outreach activities you like doing.
- You can pick new outreach activities.
If the first thing you do is pick new outreach activities, you will end up working on activities with low payoffs. Maybe you think you need new outreach activities, but you really don’t. Maybe you think you are missing some outreach activities, but you really aren’t.
If the first thing you do is keep doing the outreach activities you like doing, you will end up neglecting outreach activities that are important.
Many outreach activities have the same kind of payoff, and the payoffs from different activities can be compared. Suppose you have two outreach activities: writing relevant blogs and giving presentations to relevant audiences. These two activities look the same from the outside. But from the point of view of the person doing the outreach, they are very different.
Writing a blog involves spending a few hours every week. Writing a presentation involves spending a few days every week. Writing a blog is fun, but it’s boring. Writing a presentation is fun, but it’s frustrating. Writing a blog is relatively easy, but writing a presentation requires some skill.
So once a business owner you understand what is community outreach, and have figured out a few ways to do it. It becomes important for you to figure out which ones suit you and your business the best and align with the best interests of the community.
Community Outreach is all about the relationships
While answering what is community outreach, we’ve learned that the key thing in community outreach is the relationship with the community: how are you going to collaborate with the members, and who is the audience you are talking to? The relationship between business and the community is, of course, fundamental to business. But what kind of relationship is it?
There is a difference between a relationship of mutual benefit and a relationship of obligation. Consider the relationship between a business and a supplier. A supplier, in return for business, gives the business something it wants: raw materials, services, and so on. In return, the business gives the supplier something it wants: money.
That is a relationship of mutual benefit. It is not an obligation. It doesn’t say that the supplier has to do something for the business, or even that the business has to do anything for the supplier.
Or consider the relationship between a business and the community. A business wants the community’s support. But the community has no obligations to the business. The community doesn’t owe the business anything. The important thing for businesses to understand is that anyone who helps them keep customers is, in effect, helping them keep business. So businesses should treat all their suppliers as their customers, and all their community partners as their partners.
A business that understands its customers and is responsive to their needs will succeed. A business that ignores its customers will fail. Therefore, a business that understands what is community outreach will succeed. A good business is a community member as well as a property owner and a money-maker. A business that participates in its community shares its values, and contributes to the common good will succeed. A business that doesn’t will fail.
“No man is an island” is a truism, but “No business is an island” is an observation. Businesses are social animals, and to survive, they have to figure out how to be social animals. If they don’t, they will fail.