By Kit Cole & Maureen Tobin
Whichever of its myriad names you use – community engagement, neighborhood-focused communications, public outreach, public participation – we see that certain folks consistently get “stuck” with the added responsibility of P2. If you’re already a PIO (public information officer) or a City Clerk, you may very well get asked to take on P2. And if you’re already out in the community, engaging with folks around public safety issues, you might also get asked to take on P2.
The critical thing to know is that P2 is better when people across your organization are working on it with you. Here are the Top 3 Ways to get others on board:
1. Ask for help
It seems like a no-brainer, but this is actually the most overlooked approach we’ve seen. Asking for help requires us to be a little vulnerable, so many of us avoid it. Yes, your shoulders are broad and you can handle the responsibility, but think how much more effective you’ll be when a variety of folks in your organization are working in tandem.
P2 is most effective when it's done by people local to your particular neighborhood, community or organization. You have local government employees that are members of the churches, basketball leagues, and Rotary Clubs that you need to engage. Ask your fellow employees what they’re up to in the community and make them ambassadors to those groups – they’re already known and have credibility!
2. Get some training
It's tough to do P2 when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Heck, it's hard to do most anything when you haven’t been given any training. Consider attending P2 training together, as a growth and development opportunity, with your colleagues and co-workers. Our favorite trainings are focused, group-based (because best practices come from other people!) and virtual. Training should be relatively painless, done on a week day and provide information in a variety of ways – in a virtual community, on Zoom and with written materials. Our favorites? We’re biased, but we love the Davenport Institute and The P2Club for both foundational P2 work and ongoing training and support.
3. Slow and go
Ask a coworker to help you provide the snacks at the next community open house. Ask someone to staff the sign-in table and someone else to hand out flyers with info for that evening’s discussion. Once they’re familiar with the process, it becomes less scary for your colleagues to consider doing P2. It’s possible that someday in the not-so-distant future you may even have to limit your volunteers for community engagement events! Introducing people to P2 slowly increases the chances they’ll experience a small “win” or two, even if there is some conflict or high emotions at the meeting.
That’s all folks! Please stay tuned for our next weekly installment on the “finer points” of P2.