Engaging in Summer

Engaging in Summer

by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Communications

Maybe it’s because of winter, but Canadians appreciate summer. We crave it, like little sunflowers seeking the sun. When the sun shines, we turn our eyes to the lakes, the beaches, the campgrounds, and the back 40, to celebrate the summer, enjoy time with friends and family and focus on recharging. I recently saw a sign that read: time wasted at the lake is time well spent. In the Okanagan, there is a near frenzy to get to your special spot, be it a secret cove on the lake, a camp site with a great view or that rental property you’ve visited for the last 20 years.

So, all in all, it is not a great time to engage. People are generally not in the mood to attend open houses, focus groups or complete online surveys. Depending on the content, people might even feel like you are trying to “sneak one by” if all your engagement is over the summer. So, here are three tips and tricks for engaging in the summer.

  • Separate “public” and community engagement from stakeholder engagement: some people are still working, so if you can focus on stakeholder engagement as opposed to community engagement do that.
  • Go where people are: focus on “just in time” engagement, meaning participate at farmers markets, festivals and fairs; go where people are and keep the engagement short and sweet – three minutes or less.
  • Engagement marketing: take the time over the summer to focus on marketing your future engagement. For example, you might not be engaging yet, but you are giving people an advance organizer or save the date for future engagement. Focus on communicating what’s in it for them, how they can keep in touch and opportunities to ask questions about the project.

Trying to launch and complete a community engagement process over the summer can be risky. You will run the risk of people thinking the engagement is disingenuous or ill conceived. Where possible look to extend the engagement into the fall and see the summer engagement as supplemental.

This summer, I will be working, but I will also be focussing on getting sand in my toes, spending whole days floating in the lake, spending time watching sunsets and stars on the water and sitting around the campfire. The only way we tell time at the cottage is by calling out “gin time!”. Enjoy your summer; you’ve earned it.