Here, media update’s Taylor Goodman discusses the importance of community relations in PR. 

When managing a business, it is very easy to get tied up, allowing you to lose touch of initial gumption and ambitions you had when just starting out. 

Strategy+Business describes community relations as “food for the soul of the organisation”— something that helps your brand remain authentic and in touch with your community.

The importance of community relations

A strong sense of social responsibility has become a beneficial and strategic aspect of many businesses. 

This being said, establishing positive community relations is not easy.

Businesses have to strike a balance between dogging public suspicion and maintaining public consent to operate, a common concern for companies and large corporations. 

Brands that integrate community relations into their business plan tend to reap the rewards in the long term. This is because, through social responsibility, corporations are able to remain competitive in their industry while sustaining a consistent brand image and market presence. 

Building and maintaining community relations can benefit your business in a multitude of ways, such as:
  • Strengthening the community: When working with surrounding communities, businesses are able to offer support through goods, services, time or opportunity. 
  • Improving visibility: As your product or service will be showcased to the public at large, it will thus be exposed at a greater scale to potential consumers. 
  • Expanding consumer base: Increased visibility and improved relations with your community increases the likelihood that new consumers will discover your brand. 
  • Enhanced brand image: A boost in reputation is the most obvious benefit of working with your community. This shows consumers that your brand doesn't just care about making money but also enriching the communities they operate in. This increases consumer trust and a brand’s credibility. 
  • Increased competitiveness: Strong community relations increases the potential of your business attracting new employees. This is the case because people want to work in well-respected companies. 

1. Involve the community in the process

When working on community outreach, many businesses isolate community leaders and members from being a part of the process. This is a mistake. 

Involving members of the community discussions about community engagement, contributions, and monitoring helps to cultivate a long lasting, positive relationship with the public. 

Public niceties aside, involving the community will also help your business to identify any local circumstances that may pose a threat to your operation, such as lack of infrastructure

Working with your community will additionally assist in community outreach is by educating brands on diversity.

You can involve members of the community in two ways. First, you can start by developing a relationship with community leaders. Building trust with formal or informal community leaders will help you gain credibility with the public at large. You will also be able to gain further insight into community culture, dynamics, expectations, and behavior.

The second thing you need to do is get feedback. Having regular meetings with and garnering feedback from community members will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

2. Make strategic investments 

When investing capital in your community, it is vital that you lend it to a worthy cause. Easily the most important attribute of community relations is creating opportunities in surrounding communities. 

Many businesses tend to donate to sports leagues or educational institutions to gain a social license to operate in these areas. This should not be the case. 

Although community relations do benefit businesses, that's not where things should end. Community outreach should never be done with selfish intentions but rather be focused on uplifting and sustaining the communities involved.

Investments that can make a difference are usually centered on socio-economic development

Job creation, improvements to healthcare and education or training opportunities are examples of worthy causes for businesses to invest in. 

Creating these opportunities in local communities is an effective way to improve a brand's image as consumers will see them as a company that takes care of others and not themselves. 

3. Consistency in communication is essential

Communication is key when it comes to community relations. And consistency when it comes to all communication is crucial

Why, you ask? Well, by engaging with these communities, you are ensuring that you take the perspectives and priorities of the members into account. 

The communication needs to be straightforward and digestible, so that everyone is able to understand and offer input. 

By doing this, you make your community outreach an integrated project. You are also able to improve your operations including community members in the decision-making process. 

This allows your business to learn from any of its mistakes, and tailor your operation to their suggestions, ensuring everyone involved feels represented and respected. 

Do you think community relations are crucial for a business to succeed? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Do you want to know more about the importance of inclusion and diversity in PR? Then be sure to check out our Three tips for promoting diversity in public relations right here
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy