(Amber Paluch ‘98)
“Knowing what the community values, its motivators, building relationships, and being transparent are key factors for effective community engagement in public relations,” Amber Paluch said as a featured speaker at the UW Oshkosh 50th anniversary celebration in October.
Paluch, a UW Oshkosh alumna and Vice President of Community Engagement at the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, discussed best practices for working with communities and building relationships.
Paluch has spent more than 16 years in the journalism field. She shared her experiences in working for media, and transitioning from a journalist to a public relations practitioner. Paluch said that community engagement helps practitioners gain a feel of the community and what it considers essential for its future development.
“The community engagement team at the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation has the responsibility to understand the community and its needs and to guide donors on how they want to distribute their funds to develop a particular community,” Paluch said.
A public relations practitioner works closely with donors for community growth and development, so it is important to understand donors’ reactions.
“Some donors will respond to data and statistics while others might respond to a heartfelt, touching story that speaks of hope and triumph,” Paluch said.
While it may appear as common sense for a public relations practitioner working within a community, the simplest key component of community engagement is often overlooked. Paluch outlined key principles that are vital for community engagement:
1)Know what the community values and its motivators
Find out what the members of the community consider important for community growth. Get to the heart of what the audience cares about, which may be done in multiple ways. Getting to know the community may involve social research or even conducting a survey. Engaging with members of the community builds your credibility both as a journalist and public relations practitioner. According to the World Health Organization, one principle of community engagement is understanding the community’s culture, perception, economic condition, social networks, political and power structures, norms, values, demographic trends, past experience and history.
2)Seek transparency toward gaining trust
If there is an issue within the community, address it so you can move forward and show transparency. Keeping the community engaged involves gaining trust, adding transparency and sustaining relationships. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that in order to build trust, you must be open and honest. It is important to listen to the community members and address any concerns. As a public relations practitioner, you will make better decisions by addressing the issue when it first arises.
Making connections in the community with both formal and informal leaders, as well as influencers is essential. A rapport with the community can help support overall community growth and understanding over time.
Getting to know government officials and law enforcement who make decisions affecting the community also will be beneficial. Nonprofit organizations, local businesses and religious organizations help influence the community through their services offered, as well as broader values and ethics in the community.
Check out more information on the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, and feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on community engagement.