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Cultivating Community Relationships

Does your organization have a brand identity within your community that’s well established? Branding has been defined as "the communication of characteristics, values and attributes that clarify what your organization is and is not.”

Successfully branded organizations are in constant communication with their communities, not only listening and learning community and customer expectations, but also communicating what sets them apart as an organization.

Communicating and branding doesn’t occur when a crisis erupts and the agency is thrust into a reactive crisis-communication mode. Instead, branding and constant communication builds a foundational and trusting relationship between an organization’s members and the community stakeholders they serve.

Strong foundational relationships and understanding an organization’s core values provide brand loyalty not only during times of prosperity and normalcy but also during times of challenge and crisis. Such brand loyalty has assisted many an organization survive a storm.

How does your organization regularly communicate with its key constituents? How do they best receive information? Many organizations use print media and have websites to share information with their communities.

This communication should clearly express the values and attributes that should set your organization apart within the community and create a loyalty to your brand and more importantly your organization and its personnel.

Face-to-face community involvement is essential as members of your community can learn the actual members of your organization. Community-related events your organization doesn’t have a physical presence at are missed opportunities to solidify a lasting positive community perception. How actively engaged is your agency in attending opportunities to interface with the public at community homeowner meetings, gatherings, social events and other key community gatherings.

One other increasingly important element on your communication and branding strategy with your community must seriously consider inclusion of social media. Within the United States, 72% of adult internet users are active on at least one social media site, up from just a meager 8% in 2005 (Media Post).

This explosive growth rate of social-media use—900% in a decade—makes a compelling business case that your department should consider social media as one important piece of your branding, communications and marketing strategy with your community and beyond. This is particularly important with members of your community who are in the 20-30 age range, as they’re two times as likely to rely on social media and networking communication. While searching for best practices it is important to recognize that 45% of global chief business executives report utilizing social media to improve their operational visibility (Media Post).

Take this opportunity to reexamine your existing community-relation and -communication efforts and how you can strengthen them. One opportunity may be to survive the community of their current perceptions as to your brand, communications efforts and mediums.

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