Friday, November 10, 2017

Effectively Reaching Priority Populations

For the past 15 years, Promotions West has been working to engage agencies in understanding how to reach priority populations or as what it use to be called, communities of color.  A lot of jazzy words have emerged instead of just using the old term, outreach.  Today outreach workers are called navigators or community ambassadors.  Regardless, the message is the same.

When working with specific populations one of the most important keys is to develop and build trust. Over the years, communities of color have been raped by outsiders entering, offering gift cards and sandwiches for an invaluable amount of information on how they could make the community a better place to live and be healthy. In reality, many never returned once information was gathered and used, but not to benefit the audience answering all the questions and sharing great ideas. Why? Well, if you are a person of color you will understand that this has been the norm for years, the old bait and switch game. Soon, those needing that information became wiser and started hiring people who looked like someone from the community they are trying to reach.

What were the results? Same results, no one ever returned or helped to improve anything at all. Today, community members and stake holders are much smarter and aware of the games to rob them of their brilliant ideas. As a result, it's much harder to get into communities, regardless of what you look like or sound like. The secret is to be genuine when you go into any community. If not, you will be seen as a fake. Stakeholders and community members can smell fakes a mile away, trust me. The first few times you visit a community practice active listening to hear and to listen to what community members desire.

We put together a guide to help organizations reach African Americans or Black populations. We are in the process of updating that guide to include reaching the Latinx communities. The guide is free and can be downloaded from the Promotions West website. We also created a guide to help in the planning of successful focus groups with community members.

At Promotions West we are in the process of creating public relations and marketing workshops designed to equip organizations with the tools to strategically develop their communications and project plans in reaching communities of color. Remember, ethnic media is an essential partner to engage when reaching out to your audience.

As our audiences change, many engage in obtaining information through social media networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snap Chat and YouTube. A good way to organize your social media activities is by using Hootsuite, an all-encompassing app to promote your messages easier. We facilitate sessions with small to medium-sized organizations about social media and how to get started. Usually Promotions West will create social marketing pages, develop social media templates for key stories and events, and develop a timeline with clear dates. After 3 to 6 months, agencies or organizations will feel comfortable taking the lead. It's our goal to educate, demonstrate and provide the tools for the agency to take the reigns.

Here are some helpful tips to reaching your audience:

Getting Started:
  • After discussion with team members, identify who you are trying to reach and why
  • Define the project 
  • List the goals and objectives
  • Brainstorm on ways to reach your audience
  • Develop a clear message that you want to deliver to your audience
  • Identify the amount of money that you are able to spend on this project
  • List any ideas on ways to promote the message (WOM-Word of Mouth, Advertising, Radio, Television, Print, Outdoor Advertising, promotional items, community events, or via community outreach workers)
  • Evaluation - Decide how you will know that your project or campaign is successful (Do you just want numbers of people reached or are you interested in the impact on a community?)

If you are unfamiliar with your audience, it may be helpful to conduct a community assessment or an ethnographic study of the audience that you are interested in reaching.  You may: 

  • Search for the meaning of social and cultural norms and views
  • Find reasons for the use of certain behaviors or practices
  • Examine social trends and instances like divorce, illnesses, etc.
  • Examine social interactions and encounters
  • Better understand the roles of families, relationships, and organizations
  • Outline the areas where your audience living
  • What is the make up of the various communities? (Ages, Education, Countries people may be from or Regions of the country)
  • Acknowledge the similarities and differences
  • Ascertain how your audience get their information or receive news
  • List community cultural events, fairs or potential community engagement events
  • Include staff and board members in all discussions
Goals and Objectives:

Before creating an event you should develop a list of goals and objectives. Responding to the following questions will assist you in focusing on your event:
  • What is the purpose of your event or campaign?
  • What are the benefits for the community?
  • What results or outcomes do you expect or desire?
  • Is media coverage needed and why?
  • How will the event be evaluated?
Active listening is extremely important to remember when working with communities. Often we tend to not ask the people that we are trying to reach what they want and what are the best ways to reach them. Then we are disappointed when no one shows up or likes the services that are being provided to them. 

Remember that communities, especially those of color come together around food and family activities and share information with other community members. Don't make the mistake of thinking that communities don't engage with other communities. Everyone connects or intermarry with other groups of people and share information with each other. Trust me it's beneficial in promoting your efforts.

The Promotions West guide will provide you with a number of ideas to be successful in reaching communities of color. If you are interested in being a part of a communications workshop on reaching your priority audience, please drop us at line at Stay tuned, we are working on finalizing details for our workshops in 2018.