Take Relationships to the Next Level

A man and woman shake hands in a business setting

The goal of all marketing, advertising, public relations and digital efforts is to build relationships. It doesn’t matter if you are B2B or B2C. Human connection is core to all that we do. If you fail to connect to your target audience, you will have little — if any — success long term.
That is why I am — single-handedly — declaring 2019 the year of relationships. Before you ask, yes, you too can join me in this initiative.
An integral part of integrated communications is community engagement; not only does this build on all of your existing marketing efforts, but it also provides a solid foundation for personal branding and building real relationships.
If you haven’t put together a community engagement plan, follow the outline below and set the expectation with staff that it is the responsibility of all employees to be brand ambassadors for the company.

Overall goals

Community engagement is focused on fostering mutually beneficial relationships that genuinely benefit the community as well as the business. Define these components before moving forward:
Target audience: Who in the community do you want to connect with? What organizations and professional associations will help you reach your goals?
Goals: What do you want to accomplish and how will you measure success? Is it giving back as part of your company’s overall mission? Professional development for staff and leadership? Business development? Brand awareness? Are you working to solve a community-wide issue, such as talent attraction and retention?
Staff participation: Who in the company will be expected to participate?
Clearly defined non-negotiable goals need to be developed and communicated internally to avoid confusion.


Community engagement is so much more than showing up for committee or board meetings and events.
Thought leadership: Are there publications that a staff member can write for? Create original content that positions your company as an industry expert.
Board or committee participation: This is an obvious; determine the nonprofits and associations staff should participate in that will meet your defined goals.
Event attendance: Even if you are not involved on a leadership level, networking at all the great community events is a must.
Digital: Encourage staff to check in at events, live tweet, share photos on Instagram and, if relevant, write a blog recap. This could also be a podcast where you invite community members to be interviewed.
Handwritten notes: This may sound silly, but people love getting a thoughtful/congratulatory note. Be sure to review local publications and reach out to those who receive a promotion, award, or other good news.

Measurement and Tracking

Attendance: Staff is expected to participate on one board and one committee and attend at least one event a week.
Digital: Review engagement, traffic and downloads.
Word-of-mouth: This isn’t always the easiest to track, but if an individual reaches out to thank you for sending a note, having them on the podcast or sees your social posts, it indicates you are meeting your goals.
New clients/customers: If your goal is new clients/customers, track the leads that come in through community engagement.
Every company’s plan will look different and there is no right or wrong way of doing it. The takeaway here is community engagement is not an option for companies, it is a requirement.
Written by Kim Bode. Originally published on grbj.com.

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