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Part IV: Using Virtual Engagement in Your Work

Guest Blog by Emily Singerhouse

This series displayed what virtual engagement is, the importance of using virtual engagement, and practice for Rural Grantees. You’ve (hopefully) learned about real-world examples, applicable approaches, and the best platforms to utilize for your goals. To conclude this series, keep in mind these three recommendations when using virtual engagement in your work:

1. Find your People

Ever heard the phrase, “you can’t eat a whole pizza without cutting it into slices first?” With virtual engagement, you need to identify your specific audience before making a larger impact. During the process of identifying your purpose (see Part II), you identify your audience. If you do this, your efforts will be specific, valuable, and effective. Here are some examples of what that can do for you:

  • Scope out how to engage on social media (i.e., which platform to use)
  • Share the responsibility of disseminating resources and knowledge-sharing with partners
  • Facilitate community engagement with ease as you understand their experiences and needs

2. Utilize the Hybrid Model

If you can do hybrid meetings–do it. We’ve learned that not everyone wants only virtual or in-person meetings. A hybrid option creates consistency and flexibility for those who can’t make it to the in-person site. It is accessible for those with disabilities for which in-person meetings are arduous. Hybrid methods are also known to increase reach and attendance for both internal team affairs and external community events. A study found that 96% of virtual attendees at hybrid events were not planning to attend live because they weren’t convinced enough of the benefits, lived too far away or were unsure of their interest in the event or person. Hybrid events are a great way to expand your reach and find new folks.

To keep engagement up with the hybrid method, ensure the following:

  • Share what they can expect and how to use technology
  • Create an incentive for attending voluntary meetings
    • Example: Gift cards for the first ten people who attend the event, food delivery for meetings, care packages in the mail for gatherings
  • Track attendance and follow-up after
    • Example: Send a follow-up email or newsletter to attendees thanking them for attending and highlighting your efforts and upcoming events

3. Consistency is Key

Consistency means dedicating to goals and staying focused on how to achieve them. For example, if you want to use social media, post regularly. If you send out a newsletter, send it every month. If you want to share culture change messaging, share the same message with different populations and places. No matter what you do, staying consistent will produce results.

Here are some steps to stay consistent:

  • Create a scope of work, timeline, or Gantt chart to plan the steps needed to engage online, determine roles, and find resources
  • Refer to strategic plans, mission statements, funding requirements, etc. every month or quarter
  • Evaluate progress to understand how to adapt to changes, turnover, and success

Well, that wraps up this series. Comment your questions and feedback below!