Community Partnerships: 4 Steps for Success

Thinking about community partnerships can be one of your most authentic and sustainable marketing strategies. How so? Because you are fostering mutually beneficial relationships that better your community. Rising tides raise all ships, right?

It feels less like a sales transaction and more of a partnership. At Resolute, we call this “relationship capital.” It helps increase authentic brand awareness with influential decision makers, with a goal to expand your business.

A community is a group of people with different qualities who are connected by similar interests, views, or where they live. Most importantly, the characteristics of a community makes us feel like we’re part of something. Think of it as a community table at a restaurant, where diverse people gather for one shared goal: to enjoy a meal. To laugh, to tell stories, to feel included, to celebrate.

1. Align your core values with your marketing strategy.

Beyond your products and services, what do you value? And no, it’s not enough to simply say “we’re supporting our community.”

Do you value education, environmental sustainability, an underserved demographic or providing housing for those experiencing homelessness? The list is endless. First, you should identify your core values and mission. As part of that process, you can do some research. Survey your customers, investors or fellow residents to understand the needs, concerns and value of your community stakeholders.

Next, you should asses community needs. Are there any pressing issues your organization can contribute to? Some common needs revolve around economic development, education or social services.

Also, be ready to adapt during this phase of the process. Community needs are always evolving, and partnerships that were available last year may not be needed now. Flexibility is key to responding to these changing needs. When you share the same values with community partners, you can build trust all while working to meet your marketing goals.

2.    Focus on authenticity.

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot more PR and communications focus on being authentic. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times – what’s your “PR spin”? Sure, in some scenarios we carefully craft messaging to manage brand reputation.

Overall, that notion that we just “spin” things is a bit archaic, especially in a post-pandemic market. Considering community partnerships as a brand and marketing strategy is not about spin. Investing in a cause is part of your brand identity. When all else fails, focus on these two things:

  • Do not just send emails to every organization in town with a blanket request asking for support.
  • Do make a list of organizations that share your values, your interests and your desired outcomes that benefit the community.

Remember, it’s not about you or your business. Keeping your community top-of-mind leads to an authentic partnership.

3. Be intentional.

A community sponsorship is a common way for small, medium, or large businesses to get engaged in something bigger than the company itself. Typically, it’s a monetary commitment for an event or program. There could even be pre-defined benefits included, such as logo recognition on a website, materials or event swag.

However, anyone can write a check. Consider how your organization can foster a deep connection or relationship. Does the sponsorship align with your core values? Does it merely cover event costs, or does it provide for the community longterm?

For example, Resolute works with a financial institution based in Tulsa with 15 branch locations across the state. Every community is unique, so our job is to discover how does this client can strategically engage with each area.

All community partnership opportunities are evaluated based on their pillars: education, civic organizations and first responders. By being intentional, the client is able to be consistent in their approach and create parameters for measuring impact.

4. Measure the community partnership’s impact, not the sales.

Lastly, think about how you can measure the ROI from a community sponsorship, engagement or partnership. It’s important to know that this approach is a long game, generating results over time. It’s about quality over quantity. Define the value of each relationship and track how that has opened doors or increased your network.

Yes, we certainly live in the world of data. You can look at increases in website traffic, social media followers, sales and other statistics. But again, we’re talking about relationships. You may not see a direct correlation right away – and that’s OK.

Resolute takes an individualized, or custom, approach to measuring the impact of community partnerships for our clients. What works for one client or organization probably doesn’t work for another.

Individually, our team serves on nonprofit boards or volunteers. As a team, our collective relationship capital is a core value. And now, we see community partnership management as a branding and marketing service area that’s gaining traction with both new and long-standing clients.

Let’s take an artistic look at one of Resolute’s current clients leveraging local community partnerships as a marketing strategy. Our team works with Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, a national immersive art experience currently in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a 5-month run.

We helped plan and host an exclusive preview event for Tulsa leaders, promoters and stakeholders. By engaging the Tulsa Ballet, the Van Gogh exhibit was able to merge visual arts and dance, offering audiences a unique opportunity to all to enjoy the arts.

By carefully considering your businesses’ core values, marketing goals and community needs, you can form community partnerships that truly make a difference. Not only are they in line with your organization’s values, but they also contribute meaningfully to your community.