Without engaging the public and getting involved in the community, a CRA is in danger of becoming a faceless organization and losing public support. To build a network of supporters and create opportunities for interaction between your CRA and city, plan and host events such as luncheons and forums.
What events can I plan?
If you’re looking to bring your community together, one of the best ways to do it is with food-related events such as luncheons or dinners. Luncheons are a fantastic way to connect with your constituency while providing educational and networking opportunities. Bring in expert speakers to talk about redevelopment-related topics such as downtown revitalization, multi-use redevelopment and blighted areas. Think about what audience you want to attract when selecting a focus. Whether it be residents, developers, business leaders or elected officials, plan your speaker accordingly.
If your CRA is looking to gain feedback or facilitate discussion about redevelopment, forums and town hall style meetings might be best. First select a relevant topic. For example, you can focus on a specific area the city plans to redevelop. Let local residents voice their opinions about how it should be developed, and talk about your plans and the justifications behind them. This builds understanding between your CRA and the community while also creating networking and educational opportunities.
When planning, you also need to select an appropriate venue. If the topic of discussion is downtown development, hold the meeting in a popular spot downtown. If you’re holding a town hall forum, select a venue large enough for rows of guests. The venue should be large enough for the expected amount out guests while being in a relevant location.
How can I spread the word?
There are plenty of ways to let people know about upcoming events. Using flyers and handouts is a traditional method that still works well. Hand out flyers in public areas or leave them with local businesses and restaurants to inform residents. You’ll also want to involve local media to help you reach guests. Create a press release briefly describing your event. Include all the relevant details such as date, time, venue and what to expect as far as food and drinks, topic of discussion and any Q&A opportunities. Send it to your local newspaper and TV news stations. Members of the press might even show up to cover the event resulting in increased exposure for your CRA. Also make a list of VIPs, such as elected officials and other leaders to send personalized invites via email or greeting cards delivered to their offices.
To find even more participants, you will want to promote the event online. Social media is an unbeatable way to reach potential guests. Using your CRA’s Facebook page, create an event and invite people from your community. Share the details via Facebook posts, tweets and LinkedIn updates. You can also use your e-Newsletter mailing list to send details and invitations to your followers (if you don’t have a mailing list yet, please click here). With all of your invitations, make sure to include information on how to RSVP so that you know who is coming and how many guests will attend.
How can I make the most of events?
CRA events are valuable opportunities to connect with your constituents, bring your community together and gain support for your efforts. Taking a few steps can make events even more worthwhile. Have speakers provide educational resources, such as flyers or brochures, that will aid or inform local business owners and residents. If you’re getting signatures on a petition, hand out petition cards with information about the initiative. To help build a network of online supporters, have attendees sign up for your online mailing list and follow your social media channels. To learn about their redevelopment wants and needs, have them fill out short surveys.
While hosting an event, don’t forget face-to-face interaction can sometimes be the best way to gain support. Network with local business leaders, developers and government officials to ensure support from a variety of influential peers. Events also give you a chance to thank your supporters personally and talk with people who are upset about local redevelopment. Taking the time to talk to an opponent of your CRA might turn them into a supporter.
In general, try to make these events about the community. Show how much you care about your community redevelopment area and its residents. Follow the steps above to plan and host valuable networking and educational events that will get people talking about your CRA and redevelopment.
Need help planning your CRA’s next event? Please contact Jessie Johnson, FRA’s account executive at RB Oppenheim Associates. RB Oppenheim Associates is an integrated marketing and communications firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. RB Oppenheim Associates can provide numerous services for your CRA such as advertising, social media management, web development and more. Public relations counseling and advice is included in your FRA Membership.