10 Tips on How to Promote Public Participation in 2023

10 Tips on How to Promote Public Participation Online
This blog was originally published on June 11, 2015. 

Strategies to Drive Engagement for Your Project

You’ve prepared your online survey, organized the public meeting, and arranged all your engagement opportunities to support your upcoming project. Now you wait for the community to participate… Right? 

As most planning and public engagement professionals know, capturing your community’s attention can take time. When it comes to diverse participation and collecting a representative sample of community opinions, it can take a lot of work to expand your reach beyond the same handful of frequent public meeting attendees.  

 Luckily, there are a few straightforward strategies you can leverage to promote public participation online and increase and broaden your engagement! We’ve compiled a list of 70+ pro tips to consider when promoting your next public outreach project. Let’s get started with 10 popular tips…  


1. Create Urgency

Advertise when your survey is closing so you can grab the attention of those who may have procrastinated to complete the survey and reach others you may have missed. People are far more likely to participate if they feel a sense of urgency! Let your audience know there is a limited time to provide input through your calls-to-actions and marketing content. Count down to the last day and then consider extending the participation period due to “unprecedented demand.” 


2. Be Hyper-Relevant

It can be challenging to get people excited about a long-range planning process. You should make your engagement tactics creative and inclusive. Connecting your project with issues that are top of mind today is critical. Conduct research in your community to understand what troubles people face, especially any underserved voices that may feel they are not being heard.  

For example, suppose your project relates to transportation. In that case, you might create a sense of urgency by linking it to the frustration surrounding congestion. You might try something like, “Tired of traffic? Have your say here.” 



3. Solicit Earned Media

Media outlets are always searching for relevant content. Reach out to them and ask them to profile your project; this can help your survey gain traction with difficult-to-reach audiences. Also, connecting with more informal sources, like local bloggers, can help you achieve game-changing results without spending money on advertising. 


4. Leverage Social Media Strategically

The key to social media success isn’t having a bunch of followers – it’s about the level of engagement with your community. Great social media campaigns require consistent effort, so ensure you have a social media schedule before starting to stay on track. Strategically dedicate the appropriate time and resources. Even with a minimal budget, social media channels can be used to promote your initiative and get your community to share your content with their networks. 

Tip: Using the same logo, colors, fonts and letterheads in your social media materials makes your project more recognizable.


5. Use Your Existing Contact List

Mass email campaigns are still one of the best tactics for reaching your community. Drive engagement by simply tapping into your existing contact list and sending them a message. You can also leverage the email lists of your partners and significant supporters to dramatically expand your reach and increase the credibility of the project. If the calls-to-actions come from multiple sources, the campaign will seem more like a movement. 


6. Try Different Calls-to-Action

Your campaign may compete against the short attention spans of your potential participants. You need to use the right language to promote public participation, being conscious of the background and context of the project. Different groups will respond to different tones, so test multiple options and see what language works best for the various groups in your target audience.  

7. Offer Incentives

Incentives can be very effective in promoting participation. Use prizes and rewards to encourage your community to participate and build excitement. For example, offering a physical prize, like an iPad, is a great way to help drive participation. We also encourage teaming up with local businesses to arrange to give out gift cards and other treats! 


8. Leverage Community Groups

Community groups and neighborhood leaders have wide networks. Reach out to them to help champion your upcoming project. They’ll be able to share information about your project with their contacts to boost your engagement and reach groups in your community you might not have been able to otherwise. Since they are well-trusted, it increases your credibility, and the project, on the whole, can be treated more favorably!  


9. Use Many Different Outlets

In today’s world, there are a variety of outlets to leverage: social media, press releases, newspapers, radio, TV, and your website. Don’t rely on just one medium to get your message out there. Combine the best of traditional and digital marketing techniques to promote the public participation opportunity to the widest possible audience. 

10. Raise the Bar High

Concrete goals lead to real results. Not only are specific goals the key to strategic planning, but they also serve as a useful motivational tool for you and your team. Have a clear objective for digital participation and push towards that goal. 


When engaging people online, if you’ve done a great job making your tool attractive, easy to use and filled with content that resonates with people’s priorities, early users will be happy to spread the word for you. These promotional strategies will help you get the ball rolling and keep it going to reach the broadest demographic possible. 

Whether you’re planning a new road safety plan or gathering input for a long-range transportation plan, we’d like to see your project engage as many people as possible. We strongly believe that broad and inclusive public engagement leads to better insight into community preferences, more innovative plans, and smoother and more efficient project implementation.


Check out our eBook, 12 Ways to Promote Your Online Public Survey Like a Pro!

Promote your public survey pamphlet

Compelling online surveys combined with effective promotional strategies are the most cost-effective way to engage 1000s of citizens fast. Explore 70+ pro tips to optimize participation for your surveys!

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