In the dynamic realm of community engagement, visibility is the name of the game. From bustling breakfasts to lively happy hours and fundraisers in between, being present and active is the key to fostering strong connections with local organizations. The Destinations International (DI) Community Connection Professionals Task Force, a group dedicated to community engagement and destination development, shares valuable insider tips on how to effectively connect with the community.
“When it comes to Community Engagement, it’s all about being seen. Like everywhere. Enough times people start mumbling or saying straight to you, “ugh, the tourism people, again.”
Director, Community Engagement & Advocacy
Discover The Palm Beaches
1. Tailor Your Approach
When designing a community engagement strategy, destination organizations should keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Successful community alignment relies on a destination organization tailoring its engagement strategy to the needs of its specific community. Customize the data you share based on the unique interests and pain points of each organization you interact with. By aligning your message with their priorities, you're more likely to capture their attention and support.
“Every time you engage with a community organization, you can 1) communicate the value of community promotion and 2) ask them for the support you need to move the destination forward.”
Chief Experience Officer
2. Build Meaningful Relationships
Creating lasting connections involves a strategic approach to relationship-building. Try a multi-faceted approach:
- Choose a manageable number of key organizations to engage with, ensuring diverse perspectives.
- Establish a bilateral relationship built on trust, using a designated contact person for smoother communication.
- Organize both formal and informal meetings, participate in events, and foster relationships within small groups of similar sectors.
- Combine different levels of relations for a holistic engagement strategy.
“Organize meetings in small groups with the same sectors – group interest relationship. It is also useful to combine the different levels of relations."
Institutional Relations Director
4. Stay Connected
Recognizing the importance of staying connected with smaller communities, the task force emphasizes the value of effective partnerships. Engaging with regional chambers of commerce, sponsoring events, and maintaining open communication channels are essential steps to remain informed and connected.
- Regularly connect with regional chambers of commerce, sponsoring events, and participating in activities to stay informed.
- Develop and share an informative Community Report to educate the public about economic impact, marketing efforts, sponsorships, and investments in events and community groups.
- Appoint a dedicated position to work with event producers, fostering growth, overcoming barriers, and forming new partnerships within the community.
“We began producing a Community Report – a brief version of an annual report with a focus on educating the public and partners about the basics of economic impact, visitation, marketing, our sponsorships and other investments in events and community groups, accolades, etc."
Chief Operating Officer
Traverse City Tourism
5. Collaborate on Community Projects
Collaboration is at the heart of successful community engagement. Destination organizations should initiate and support collaborative projects that align with the community's goals.
- Contribute to off-season tournaments and training facilities by convening a coalition of partners with shared interests.
- Facilitate information-sharing within the coalition, providing the backbone for ongoing projects.
- Connect with partners directly to provide additional investment and staff time, fostering long-term goals through community connections.
“DMOs are able to take a look at the tools and resources that they already have and find collaborative ways to extend those resources and find ways to help their communities."
Client Success Specialist
6. Align Strategically and Say No When Needed
To maximize the impact of community engagement, try aligning with organizations that complement your strategic plan. Recognizing your limits and saying no when necessary is crucial to maintaining a sustainable engagement strategy.
- Choose organizations aligned with your strategic plan, expanding beyond the tourism and hospitality industry.
- Align community engagement with your staff's expertise, ensuring a strategic and effective approach.
- Embrace the power of saying no when needed, preventing overextension, and ensuring the quality of engagement.
“It's okay to say no and it's best to say it earlier than later. Our industry is full of "yes" people, and it can be easy to overextend yourself and your staff."
Visitors Services & Community Engagement Manager
Howard County Tourism, Inc.
Effective community engagement is a multifaceted effort that requires strategic planning, tailored communication, and a commitment to fostering meaningful relationships. By implementing these tips, destination organizations can unlock the full potential of their community connections, creating a positive impact that resonates with the local community.