Keeping the ‘Community’ in Community Preservation: A Primer on Community Outreach

Has your Community Preservation Committee (CPC) ever held a public hearing only to have nobody attend?  Do you suspect that many residents have little awareness of the projects CPA has funded in your community? Improving community engagement can help build support for your CPA program, protecting it in the long-run against revocation, and can help the CPC identify community supported project ideas.

At the Community Preservation Coalition's April 2nd conference in Bridgewater, I moderated the panel "Keeping the 'Community' in Community Preservation."  The panel focused on methods to improve community engagement.  The panelists consisted of current and former CPC members as well as a communications consultant:

  • Marilee Kenney Hunt, Chair, Bridgewater CPC
  • Richard Brannigan, Vice-Chair, Nantucket CPC
  • Claudia Sauermann Wu, former member, Newton CPC
  • Erin Callanan, Partner, Callanan & Klein Communications

The panelists offered many ideas and shared examples including Bridgewater's independent CPA website, Nantucket's informative and highly professional video that is run prior to each funding round on the local cable station, and Newton's engaging event planning ideas.

In addition, Erin Callanan outlined a framework for strategic promotion of the CPA including:

  1. Who is your target audience (town meeting members, residents, seniors, families, etc)?
  2. What messages will resonate most with your target audience?
  3. What media outlets does your audience consult most regularly?
  4. Can you incorporate use of social media to reach out to your audience: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?

One of the most inspiring moments in the panel was watching the Nantucket video. Making a video about your CPA program and posting it on YouTube can be an effective and highly engaging way to communicate to your audience.  Although Nantucket's video is not currently available online, Quincy's CPC has one they've posted on YouTube that's worth checking out.

One of the main points that challenged participants in the conference session was the concept of transforming the traditional public hearing into something that will attract an audience and engage more participation.  I'll leave you with that thought as a cliff hanger for now . . . stay tuned for my next post and I'll provide some ideas on spicing up public hearings.