Outreach and Marketing
An excerpt from “True Stories of anAging Do-Gooder … How cohousing bridges cultural divides” by Alan O’Hashi
There are a few terms that get tossed around when it comes to outreach to the broader public.
“Publics” is a term I learned while a public relations intern during graduate school. A “public” is a group of individual people that share some commonality, similar to markets in economics.
The “publics,” in aggregate, make up the “general public,” similar to the “mass market.”
The approach I use is a combination of Marketing and Public Relations (MPR).
What is marketing? In the context of cohousing, marketing is the process that identifies “markets,” which are groups of people that share similar demographic or consumptive characteristics.
The mass-market consists of people who live in houses.
You can break down the housing market into smaller markets that include owners, renters, seniors, families, etc.
The housing sub-markets can be further differentiated based on high income, low income, race and ethnicity, gender continuum, sexual orientation continuum, etc.
After you identify your markets, craft messages that resonate with each. The message is the same, but terminology and contexts are market-specific.
Your messages can be purveyed through “unearned media,” which purchased advertising. Paid advertising allows you to tell your story how you want.
Write news releases for the hope of gaining “Earned media” results that may end up as a story in the newspaper, radio, TV, or some other media forms like a blog or podcast. There’s no telling when or if your story will see the light of day.
That leads me to public relations.
What is ‘public relations’ (PR)? PR is the primary means of generating “earned media,” which is nurturing a positive perspective about your community to identified publics or markets.
Communication media may include traditional sources like TV, newspapers, radio; social media, including blogs, emails, podcasts; and in-person meetings like speakers’ bureaus, guest appearances on radio shows.
If you’re a forming community, your group may organize a newsworthy activity, like helping build Habitat for Humanity homes or registering voters.
Another example would be telling the Wild Sage Cohousing in Boulder story about the community sewing masks for frontline emergency responders during COVID-19 isolation.
Targeted messages build mutually beneficial relationships between cohousing communities and their publics/markets.
If you’re a forming community “burning soul,” write your messages to reflect the community story.
MPR messaging: Forming communities likely have limited budgets and rely on public relations activities to get out the word about new member recruitment. I use a four-step approach called RACE.
• Research your story and use your community story premise to develop your markets and publics. Who – are potential people to contact? Where – is the geographic area you want to recruit?
• Actions should be developed that are useful, credible and include your Burning Soul members as speakers, cohousing film screenings, partnerships with groups or organizations that share your philosophy, collaborating with cultural brokers if you want to connect with diverse publics and markets.
• Communication objectives should be strategized that result in messages understandable to each identified market or public. Communications are through earned and unearned traditional media coverage and nontraditional media such as various social media.
• Evaluation is how you determine if your actions were effective and communicated effectively to each identified public or market. Evaluation tools can be as simple as counting the number of attendees and a talk-back at the end of an event. Conduct more formal surveys using printed forms or online platforms like surveymonkey.com or customized google forms. These data circle back and inform the Research step to improve future actions and communication.
The vast majority of cohousing communities have a shared value about inclusion and diversity.
Diverse markets and publics are the most difficult for typical predominantly Caucasian cohousing communities to reach. Think through your communication approach.