Effective Alternatives for Digital Public Engagement During COVID-19 Pandemic

As the situation around COVID-19 continues evolving, we are all making necessary changes to face this challenge head-on. But what won’t change is K&A’s commitment to colleagues, clients, teaming partners and friends. K&A is sending a series of blog posts with advice and guidance for digital public outreach and community engagement using a variety of formats, methods and platforms. We hope these tools will help you continue to communicate about things that matter.

We are in an unprecedented time of “social distancing” and quarantines, but there remains a need for important projects and community conversations to keep moving.  In California, Governor Newsom revised his Executive Order to allow agencies to waive some Brown Act Requirements, but still require a mechanism for public participation through telephonic or other electronic means, and have procedures in place to quickly enable access to disabled persons consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Instead of pausing everything while we wait for the world to get back to “normal,” we can think outside the box to keep important efforts moving. We can all move forward, at our own pace, with community engagement using effective online platforms, while giving these circumstances the consideration they deserve.

Which online platforms best serve your goals?

Once you’ve identified the engagement that must or can be done now, consider this: Do you need to inform or raise awareness (One-Way Communication)? Or is there a level of input required (Interactive Communication)? Check out the tactics and platforms below that best align with these goals:

One-Way Communication: Inform or Raise Awareness

  • E-blasts or Electronic Newsletters (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, iContact)
  • Electronic Fact Sheets
  • Facebook Ads*
  • Website Updates or Blog Posts
  • Videos
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Pre-recorded Webinar or Podcast
  • Pre-recorded, Automated Phone Call

Interactive Communication: Gain Input

Two-way Webinar or Phone Call with Q&A Function

These can help put a “face to the name” and help build trust. Please note: many of these sites are being overwhelmed, understandably, but are working to ensure access to all. Please check with provider to confirm bandwidth and availability.

Example: Community Advisory Group Meetings, City Council Meetings, Public Meetings, Public Workshops, Oversight Committee Meetings

Social Media

Expand your reach by creating a strong digital footprint. Check out more information on social media use and demographics here. Posts on these platforms can be two-way if your administrator is available to respond to comments or questions. Use “Live Events” to simulate a public meeting or town hall.

Example: Digital “Event” Invitations, Status Updates, Q&A, Announcements, Virtual Tours, Thought Leadership, Photo Journals

Video Testimonials / Storytelling

Allow your community to weigh in and tell their story.

Example: Disaster Recovery, Customer Experience Reviews

Surveys or Polling

Ask your stakeholders for their opinion. Be sure to share any pertinent question, answers or results with the community, as appropriate.

Example: Disaster Recovery, Customer Experience Reviews

Interactive Online Engagement

These are proprietary tools that can be used to moderate comments and feedback and create space for dedicated community engagement.

Example: Master Planning, Community Preference Input, Site or Project Planning

* May require paid subscription.

The next blog post as part of this series will be posted on March 30, 2020 and will discuss Avoiding Technical Difficulties.