Argyle Public Relationships

Engagement in the era of COVID-19

By Darcy Vermeulen

/ Posted in Engagement

Argyle is hosting a 30-minute webinar on Thursday, March 19 at 11:00 am PST, to dive into the ways you can continue engaging and keep those conversations going.  To register, contact us at info@argylepr.com


 

How do you engage when you can’t gather?

 

The Junos are cancelled, the NHL has suspended its season, our Prime Minister is in isolation and Tom Hanks has COVID-19. What has been a compelling news story is becoming a stark reality for Canadians as communities grapple with what social distancing really means and how it impacts business, non-profit and government organizations.

 

And that includes public and stakeholder engagement. Every day, organizations are reaching out to residents to gather their feedback on decisions that matter – transportation, social programs, climate change and the development of our communities. And while open houses, focus groups, community meetings are being cancelled across the country, how do organizations gather the input they need to support informed decision-making that includes feedback from those most impacted?

 

The good news is, there are innovative ways to continue to include the public and stakeholders in the decisions that affect them. The public engagement team at Argyle offers five tips for bringing your engagement efforts online to continue your conversations in innovative digital spaces:

 

Get them while they’re FREE

If you need to host a conversation on short notice, try one of the many free tools available across social media. Facebook or Instagram Live provide you with an immediate way to gather people, to present information or to hear from communities. Google is offering a free subscription to its Hangouts platform in response to the virus. Consider holding your next stakeholder meeting or workshop remotely on the platform instead of in person.

 

Don’t use a hammer when you need a screwdriver

There are several sophisticated engagement platforms that can help you host more complicated conversations online. If you need to change your plans quickly, and move from meeting in person to gathering online, be sure you pick the right tool for the job. We work with a number of platforms, including Bang the Table, Ethelo, Civil Space, Social PinPoint, the Hive, Survey Gizmo, PlaceSpeak, Qualtrics, and Sli.do. Make sure to consider your strategic goals before selecting a platform; like in-person engagement approaches, they’re not all built the same, and each offer something different

 

You still have to talk good

Online engagement can help you reach your communities or customers to hear from them at this critical time, but you need to bring people along. Communications is an essential component of any good online engagement program. Early outreach and additional promotion to inform people about your online process and its objectives is key to your success. Also, consider geotargeting your promotions to make sure you reach your target audience.

 

Invest in an inclusive process

When digital engagement is one piece of a larger program, organizations may not always consider how to make it accessible and inclusive. Consider the needs of your target demographics and apply it to your digital process. This may require additional investment in translation services or ensuring that audio and visual elements are balanced for both the hearing and visually impaired. When targeting seniors or new Canadians consider developing how-to-guides or providing access to navigation support by phone.

 

Test and refine

A key to your success online is ensuring the user experience is seamless and fluid. Once you’ve selected your platform and have built it out with your questions and content, be sure to test it with a trusted group of users. Their feedback and tweaks will make the difference between your wider audience having a good experience or a frustrating one. And this will help ensure you get the type of feedback from communities you’re looking for in the first place. Even after you launch, there is always the opportunity for continuous improvement by building in questions about how to improve your process and maximize participation.

 

Want to learn more? Argyle is hosting a 30-minute webinar on Thursday, March 19 at 11:00 am PST, to dive into the ways you can continue engaging and keep those conversations going.  To register, contact us at info@argylepr.com

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