The Textizen Blog

JAN 28 2015

4 Tips for Creative Outreach Techniques

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This post is Part 2 in our series about improving your outreach techniques to drive more responses to your campaigns and make the greatest impact possible. In Part 1, we examined outreach material design, and how visual layout can increase the effectiveness of your posters. In this post, we’re going to give four tips for getting the public talking—and texting—about your campaign.

Tip #1: Understand Placement Fundamentals

Before you start to dream up creative and out-of-the-box approaches to outreach, it’s important to consider the two fundamentals: visibility and attention.

Visibility

Needless to say, your materials need to be where people will see them! For posters, consider high-traffic areas like coffee shops, transit stops, or onboard trains or buses. For smaller flyers, consider car windshields, elevators, or bike racks—just be sure to get the appropriate permission, of course.

Attention

Visibility alone will not ensure success—every bit as important is whether people who see it will take the time to engage. For advertisers, 1000 people taking a passing glance at an ad may be a success, but if you want people to take specific action, 100 close examinations is worth more than 1000 glances. A coffee shop window may be a great place for your posters, but not if it’s inside a busy train station where many people are rushing to their next destination.

Now that you’ve got the fundamentals, read on for 3 more tips on creative outreach techniques.

Tip #2: Strategic Poster Placement

Taking visibility and attention into consideration, it is clear that placement is a major factor for any campaign relying on outreach posters. It’s no accident that many successful Textizen campaigns have used posters onboard public transportation and at transit stops—people are glad to have something meaningful to do while they wait.

Transit is far from the only option, though: Philly Bike Share’s giant sidewalk decals were an eye-catching splash of color amid the gray city streets, and drew over 1000 text message responses. Other creative choices have included vacant storefront windows—“What business would you like to see here?”— and building wraps on construction projects.

Vertullo building window

Image via Historic Boston.

If budget is a concern, partnering with other organizations such as transit operators can open up a host of new options for placement and targeting. Don’t be afraid to reach out; many of our clients have found that local organizations are happy to help with their campaigns!

Tip #3: Use Mailers for Targeted Outreach

If you want to get input from a specific group or a particular area, good old-fashioned direct mail can be a great solution. In 2013, city planners in Florida wanted to get local input on a newly-proposed elevated expressway, cutting through the city-wide debate to see what the people in the area actually thought. They used direct mail flyers to target those who lived in the immediate area, and got valuable feedback on the proposal from those who would be most affected.

Another clever technique is partnering with local utility companies to include your prompt on utility bills. This could be an effective approach for any campaign, but would be especially appropriate for anything pertaining to sustainability, energy use, or homeownership.

Tip #4: Take your Outreach on the Road

Finally, bear in mind as you craft your survey and design your materials that even with modern technology, there is still a place for boots-on-the-ground outreach. Sometimes, mergers of old and new methods can lead to great results for public input. Councilman Kevin Roden in Denton, Texas used a text-in prompt on a flyer at a public meeting to gather input from attendees while they got settled and waited for the event to begin.

Denton meeting and flyer

150 town hall attendees in Denton, TX texted in to describe their businesses and offer ideas for how the city could help foster local business.

Incorporating Textizen prompts into traditional meetings, as Roden did, or hosting “road show” style events, can be a great choice, especially in less densely-populated areas.

For instance, in summer of 2014, planners for the City of Tigard, Oregon wanted to see if their residents supported their vision of a more walkable city with more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. However, with such infrastructure not yet in place, planners could not rely on foot traffic to drive survey responses. To get their question out to residents, Tigard organized a “mobile ice cream social,” visiting neighborhoods, dispensing free treats and inviting people to take their text-in survey.

Tigard poster

Via @TigardOR.

New Technology, Enduring Techniques

The decades since the introduction of text messaging have brought huge technological leaps, and significant changes in the way humans interact. But just as there are enduring visual tricks to get people to look at your poster, traditional rules of good outreach can be applied creatively to the emerging area of text-based public input. We’ve been consistently impressed with what our clients have come up with to get the word out about their Textizen campaigns, and we will continue to share what we have learned in future blog posts.

Read Part 1 of our outreach tips series here: 5 Tips for Creating an Effective Outreach Poster

Got clever ideas for getting outreach messages to your audience? Tweet them at us: @Textizen. If you’re ready to use mobile to bring your campaigns to a wider audience, send us an email: hello@textizen.com.