Tuesday, October 08, 2013

How DC agencies can improve their EotR community outreach

It's time to think outside the box.
I think it is great that DC government staff read CHotR. I am always a little surprised when I run into someone during the course of my working day who mentions one of my blog articles. The feedback is always positive and usually introduces us to talking about Ward 8 issues and needs. So while my perspective is but one of many perspectives I always appreciate the feedback.

I started CHotR in 2008 in hopes that by bringing together information about the community it would encourage a community dialogue. I also hoped that it would provide a forum for which we could address important Ward 8 issues and highlight the positive side of Ward 8. I would be lying if I said I was also hoping that I would have a forum of my own in which to shame DC into doing better for east of the river.  In the five years I have been blogging I see progress being made on all of those fronts and that gives me encouragement.

That aside, I would really like to see more DC government agencies being involved in a more formal way on neighborhood blogs. While I think flyers will always be a vital tool in distributing information east of the river (the digital divide and all) I do think flyers have their limitations. You can't solicit a dialogue with a flyer, you can't always target your message to the audience you are trying to reach, and most importantly -- you can't use just one form of outreach and expect to connect with people.

So that being said, I hope to see more DC government agencies take a risk, think outside of the box, and start utilizing community resources such as local bloggers to spread the word about community events, initiatives, and programs that can make our relationship so much better. In my experience, residents tend to be less suspicious of DC agencies and staff when they have a regular relationship with them. No one, (and I mean no one) wants their first introduction to the community be in a contentious Advisory Neighborhood Commission -- we know how those can turn out.

So I say to you DC government agencies -- particularly the folks that handle your marketing --- maybe it is time to invest a tiny fraction of your advertising budget into east of the river community resources (like neighborhood blogs and community organizations) when trying to do east of the river community outreach. I am always amazed when DC agencies have money in their budges to pay an outside marketing firm to handle their "local" community outreach but can't find a dime in that same budget to pay the people here who are here, on the ground, every day. (BTW - that same outside firm then takes their fat contract and comes to me asking for free advice)

We might not be as big and glossy as a city bus, or a truck that drives around with a billboard, or a full page spread in a newspaper but we aren't nearly as impersonal.  We are here, every day, doing what we do because we believe. It would be nice to have DC government agencies be a part of an ongoing dialogue, rather than speaking at us when you need something.

Just a thought.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Exactly! DC government needs to take note! Community outreach begins IN the community!