Public relations and communicating your community garden message

A communications plan tailored to the specific needs of your community garden organization can reinforce dedication and pride of ownership and place by participants.

Budgeting and fundraising was the topic of the last Community Gardens article in this series. Other articles in this series, posted in Michigan State University Extension, talked about how community gardens add to asset based community development, how to organize a community garden, strategic planning, and learning from the past through evaluating your community garden activities.

Having your promotional programs and communication needs planned in advance will contribute to your long-term plan and promote community within your group. Regular communications build trust, respect, cooperation and inclusiveness among your community garden members. Regular publicity also draws in the greater community at large. Be sure to consider organizational goals when developing your publicity and communication plan.

Next you will want to focus on the message your community garden organization wants to convey. This can be generated with a few simple steps:

  1. Set your goals for your organizational message.
  2. What is the audience for your particular message, (i.e. business leaders, local residents etc.)
  3. Identify the audience values and concerns so your communications reflect them. Values and concerns can include responsibilities to self, family, work, spirituality, improved quality of life, safe recreational areas, beautifying neighborhoods, etc.
  4. Create your message; not a slogan, but a paragraph that is more like a statement describing what you do and offers an action. Here is a short example from Local Harvest.
  5. Use images and develop and use a logo. This is both an additional story to tell in picture form and provides an identifier.
  6. Make sure that you support your story and picture with specific facts that relate to your organization and to the people involved.
  7. Reduce the message into something “short and sweet”. Getting to the point and keeping the message simple works best for most audiences. Generating a slogan that can be used repetitively can help create public recognition.

Your messages can be conveyed in a variety of ways:

  • Personal contact, public speaking, conferences, word-of-mouth, advertising, print ads, signs, billboards, transit place cards;
  • Organizational publications, brochures, newsletters, fliers, direct mail, annual reports; print publicity, news articles, feature stories, calendar listings;
  • Broadcast publicity, radio and TV news coverage, public service announcements, editorial responses;
  • Internet, website, e-mail, bulletin boards, and social networking boards;
  • T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, window displays, etc.

Getting the word out and publicizing your community garden organization and sharing what you do generates both continued interest and solidifies a sense of place and ownership with your community and members. It also boosts pride and boosts the self-esteem of the gardeners who participate in your program.

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