“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
We’ve all heard it, but I don’t think it’s entirely true. No matter who you know, you still have to use your knowledge to help clients connect with like-minded people. In other words, public relations is where you combine what you know with who you know to build community.
Sometimes building networks is as simple as putting two people in the same room, but when it comes to increasing awareness about a statewide initiative, things can get complicated. Enter Michigan’s ACE Initiative – a grant-funded program to build awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and help children receive assistance from within their local communities.
While working for Michigan’s ACE Initiative, I’ve learned that building community requires a blend of innovative techniques with tried-and-true methods. Curious? Here are my three biggest takeaways from working to increase awareness and conversation statewide.
Put as many people as possible into a room and get them talking. Michigan’s ACE Initiative did this by hosting a launch event that encouraged professionals who regularly work with children to share their expertise.
Traditional launches aren’t always enough, so we created a unique movie-watching experience. Showing the award-winning film “Resilience,” followed by an after-movie discussion, encouraged professionals from around the state to look for ways to build community support across Michigan.
Finding fun, simple ways to start discussion is key to starting a community, but how do you continue the conversation when the event ends?
At Martin Waymire, we know that websites and social media are important keys to building community. That’s why we help our clients maintain websites and create engaging, thought-provoking presences on social media to foster communication and share ideas.
The Michigan ACE Initiative website provides information about the program and a blog where individuals share their professional thoughts and experiences about dealing with Adverse Childhood Experiences. We created the Michigan ACE Initiative Facebook page as an outlet for anyone who is interested in learning about ACEs and the importance of helping children build resilience.
Social media builds broad communities that are great for sharing information. However, social media isn’t the ideal tool for connecting a social worker from Detroit with a peer in Marquette. So we looked for additional ways where our community could grow.
We created a Michigan ACE Initiative on Slack to allow those directly involved in helping stop Adverse Childhood Experiences in Michigan meet and communicate with one another easily in a central place online without having to use email. Everyone could see what was being shared, creating more of a community.
Having the opportunity to help organize and build community has shown me how vital community can be to combining the efforts of caring people statewide and improving the mental and physical health of thousands of Michigan children. Many professionals are working to help these children, but building the ACE community has made those efforts even stronger.