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Three Elements of Great Community Engagement Campaigns

19 October 2016 at 8:11 am
Mike Davis
All businesses and organisations can increase community engagement through effective campaigns, writes Mike Davis, founder of Purposeful.

Mike Davis | 19 October 2016 at 8:11 am


Three Elements of Great Community Engagement Campaigns
19 October 2016 at 8:11 am

All businesses and organisations can increase community engagement through effective campaigns, writes Mike Davis, founder of Purposeful.

In today’s crowded and competitive market, innovative tactics are needed to separate from the pack and optimise engagement with a community of givers.

Whether you are a not for profit, social enterprise or socially-motivated business, optimising engagement with your community is pivotal to your success.

Three elements that are important in producing top-quality community engagement campaigns are “community building”, “high visibility” and “conversation starting” approaches:

  1. Community building focuses on the need to make a group of people feel united and drawn together through a campaign and cause.
  2. High visibility is about drawing visual attention to the cause through symbolism, a gesture or an act that reflects commitment to a campaign and cause.
  3. Conversation starting is the final element, produced when you are able to perfect both community building and high visibility aspects of engagement.
  1. Community building – Movember

As a proud Movember man, this will be my seventh consecutive year participating and my second year in a row participating with a good mate, who shares a commitment to men’s mental health and wellbeing.

Movember managed to create a strong identity and community buzz by encouraging men to reconnect with the iconic retro moustache of yesteryear. Recognising a moustache was instantly a sign of belonging to a community of men who wanted to improve funding and awareness of men’s health issues.  

Developing a smart partnership with Grill’d led a great number of Movember participants to enjoy free burgers together whilst sporting moustaches, in a shared expression of commitment to men’s health and wellbeing. This has led to massive growth in the Movember community of givers, which includes various supporter groups committed to the shared purpose of improving men’s health and awareness.

The obvious and unavoidable placement of the moustache makes it the ideal highly visible conversation starter. As such, the moustache effectively serves to self-advocate for the Movember cause and in effect, grows the community of its own accord. I still vividly remember a few years ago, when a man approached me and without a word exchanged, handed me $10 out of his pocket to support the Movember cause.

  1.  High visibility – Polished Man

Being a participant in YGAP’s Polished Man campaign was a new experience for me and the visibility of the polished nail had me shuddering at first inspection! However, after a few days and some unavoidable comments from friends and loved ones as well as the typical “did you jam your finger in the door again?” it started to feel perfectly normal.

Given the incredible volume of people asking me about my painted nail, I also felt compelled to learn more about the plight of young victims of sexual assault and physical violence. This allowed me to be more confident having a conversation and to educate others in the process.

I found the painted nail and it’s clear link to the stark statistical reality that one in five children experience violence each year, to be the perfect catalyst for a meaningful and informative conversation. The high visibility of the painted nail on a man makes it the perfect canvas for an iconic campaign.

  1. Conversation starter – RUOKDAY?

The strength of the RUOKDAY? approach to engagement is in its simplicity. The call to action is clear from the outset. All people are expected to do to be involved is to take the opportunity on a particular day each year to ask someone in their life if they are ok.

The barriers to involvement are incredibly low and the idea is to “hero” everyday people who take some time to care for others, demonstrate compassion and to enquire as to their wellbeing. What could be easier than starting a conversation with someone as an act that could save a life by preventing suicide.

The call to action is the perfect catalyst to a broader community-based conversation about wellbeing, mental health, caring for others and suicide prevention. This is a great approach for starting important conversations that people may ordinarily find difficult to initiate.

Another campaign adopting this approach is Change Day Australia (CDA). CDA were able to generate strong conversation and commitment to change by calling on health system workers to take positive action and make public pledges or commitments to improve the health system in a concrete way.

A powerful part of their approach was asking health system workers to creatively think about how they might effect practical change and share this with colleagues and the public. This turned things from a conversation to a plan for action and collective positive change.

Adopting one or a few of these strategies to community engagement is a great way to develop stronger connections and a more effective overall giving campaign. The right approach will vary depending on the cause or campaign and the type of community you are trying to reach and create in the process.

About the author: Mike Davis is the founder of Purposeful, a social impact advisory dedicated to empowering businesses to grow their social impact and performance by adopting a purpose-driven approach to community, partnerships, strategy and people and culture. Mike is a former health, social and public policy adviser. Recently, he has worked as a senior advisor in government and has a Masters of Law (Human Rights). He is interested in business and social impact strategy and innovative approaches to social value and wellbeing measurement and evaluation. He is a board member at the Awesome Foundation Melbourne and a recent facilitator at Peer Academy. Start a conversation with him at

Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike Davis is a for-purpose executive leader, chief podcaster at Humans of Purpose and a board director at not for profits SIMNA Ltd and L2R Dance.

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