Now that you are getting a sense of how your community looks, it is time to begin to network. You'll start with the people you know in the community and then branch out to others to whom you will need an introduction.
Don't Be Shy! Meet the Local Media
If there is indeed a community radio, introduce yourself to the station manager and news director as soon as practical. Without the tremendous start-up funding necessary to personally contact every person in your area, learning to work with the media will be your best alternative and will provide a direct means of communicating with your supporters throughout the region.
Keep in mind that the people who work in community media need you to help provide content for their programming just as much as you need them to help publicize your activities.
If your organization is statewide or even nationwide in scope, the local broadcast and print outlets can provide direct access to a national audience with the flip of a switch. Over the past decade, new networks serving millions of people have been established; these are networks you need to become acquainted with and plan to use.
Consider preparing a “one page” that introduces you to the general community. A “one page” is a one-page open letter printed on your organization's letterhead in which you briefly let people know of your group, its plans, and how to contact you for further information or to attend a meeting. Write the letter in a friendly, inviting tone, and be sure it's double-spaced.
As you access available resources that exist under the large umbrella of “media,” don't overlook the multitude of Internet mailing lists commonly called listservs, some of which undoubtedly include whatever your focus might be. Now is the time to document every media resource and develop a unique file listing every element they have for you.
Introducing Yourself to the Business Community
Think about how you approach these introductory meetings. It may be good to have two board people from your group attend as well to encourage an easier flow of conversation. Remember, you are not asking for anything; rather, you are seeking to establish a solid relationship that will be mutually beneficial.
Introduce yourself to the local chamber of commerce and other business groups. It is very likely that news of your organization has already been circulating, so take the initiative and request an informal meeting with these groups. You will position yourself very well for future cooperation. Turn the “one page” into a simple brochure or trifold by using a desktop publishing program. Have it available at every meeting you attend, and your crucial first impression as a well-planned, successful venture will be a positive one.
Don't overlook the importance of taking the initiative and offering to meet with local businesses. You will meet people in your community you never would have otherwise, which will allow you to form potentially advantageous relationships.