Inked: Choosing Creative Engagement Tools for Outreach


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As professional communicators, we know public outreach is an effective approach to engage audiences and encourage collaboration, but sometimes, it takes a clever tool to spark that engagement.

For example, take our work with the City of Long Beach on the Southeast Area (SEADIP) Specific Plan, which is seeking the public’s input on a framework for future development and resource preservation in a 1,500-acre area of southeast Long Beach. As part of a strategy to engage a diverse group of stakeholders, we have hosted five pop-up outreach booths throughout Long Beach to inform community members, who may not ordinarily participate in community planning, about the project and encourage their participation.

One such booth was held at the Southeast Long Beach Farmers’ Market. While the market offered access to a large number of community members, it also hosted dozens of other booths competing for their attention. We knew we needed a cost-effective, project-appropriate and environmentally friendly strategy to break through the clutter. The solution: “I [heart] Southeast Long Beach” temporary tattoos.

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People of all ages, from seniors to children, were interested in “inking” their pride for Southeast Long Beach on a hand or an arm. Not only did the tattoos catch the attention of passersby, but some visitors sought us out after seeing a tattoo on someone else! While tattoos were applied, project staff had opportunities to start a dialogue about the vision for the southeast area. From there, many visitors stayed to view maps of the project area, collect informational materials and talk about city features that are important to them.

While engagement tools can be extremely effective, not all are created equal. Here are some things to consider when choosing an engagement tool for your next outreach:

  • Audience – Think about whom you’re trying to engage, including characteristics like age, demographic and culture.
  • Setting – Consider the size and weight of any item you give away. Make sure the item is easy to carry, appropriate for the location and environment-friendly.
  • Budget – Identify items that can be purchased in bulk, and shop around for the best prices.
  • Relevance – Choose a tool that can help achieve project goals and support key messages.

Don’t underestimate the difference a simple, creative engagement tool can make for your outreach strategy!