Building a Community Relations Program

When you’re focused on growing your business, you can easily get lost in the numbers, from profits and margins to sales totals and sticker prices. However, you’ll want to remember that while growth is measured in numbers, it’s also fueled by people.

Your customers aren’t simply numbers on a page. They’re people with lives, families, friends, hopes, dreams, fears, and tangible needs. All of these items factor into their decision-making processes, including what they buy and who they buy it from. If you want to build brand awareness and earn their business, you need to treat customers like people and meet them where they are—a strong community relations program is a great way to do this.

What Is a Community Relations Program?

A community relations program is a type of marketing strategy that fosters a human connection between your business and the community. It’s about how you interact with other organizations, businesses, and individuals in your area—especially the ways you give back and support the community.

An internet search about community relations will turn up a long list of results, but many are from the 1990s and early 2000s. Still, that history doesn’t mean community relations is an outdated concept; it has simply been going by different names in recent years. Today, you’ll find terms such as corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility are more common but refer to essentially the same concept.

Why Is Community Relations Important?

Many modern consumers prefer to buy from companies that are making a positive difference in the world. If you were given the choice between buying dog food from a company that supports your local humane society and seems to genuinely care about dogs and one that doesn’t, the choice is easy. Research suggests that you would pay more to ensure that you’re buying from a socially responsible company.

If the good you can do in the community isn’t enough to convince you, consider the many benefits that come from practicing good corporate citizenship:

  • It helps build a positive reputation for your business.
  • It increases brand recognition.
  • It can lead to an increase in sales.
  • It improves customer loyalty.
  • It boosts employee morale and retention.
  • It encourages investors.

Community Relations Tips and Ideas

Now that you know what corporate citizenship is and why it’s important, you may be wondering how to build your own community relations program. The following steps will help you get started:

  1. Review your company’s mission statement and core values. These two items can help guide you toward projects that fit your company’s brand, mission, and values.
  2. Brainstorm ways that you can make a difference in your community. What are some pressing needs in your community? What can you do to help?
  3. Connect with other organizations in your community. Join your local chamber of commerce and partner with nonprofits in the area.
  4. Encourage your employees to get involved. Ask for their ideas regarding projects your company can undertake.

corporate giving donation

Your community relations program can include a variety of initiatives. You could sponsor a community-league sports team, an annual event, or a renovation project. You could volunteer your time and resources to a local charity or host a food drive or a fun family event. With the help of Submittable, you can offer contests and awards to engage the community, complete with online submissions and public voting. You can also set up a scholarship and use Submittable to accept, organize, and review applications.

If you want to build brand awareness, attract new customers, and inspire loyalty among your existing customers, start planning your community relations program today.

Sarah Aswell

Sarah Aswell is an editor and content strategist at Submittable. She’s also a writer and stand-up comedian who gets rejected via Submittable all the time. You can read her comedy criticism at Forbes, follow her on Twitter, or learn more about her creative work on her website.