Ten tips for connecting with your community

Your local community is your biggest and best source of new contacts, whether that’s members, audience, sponsors or funders, patrons, volunteers or just general supporters. Many of our most successful groups are those who have a strong engagement with the people living and working in the surrounding area. But how do you build these relationships?

The chances are that the majority of people in your community will not even know you are there. Before you think about making connections that will be of benefit to your group, why not run an ‘awareness’ campaign – with the aim of making sure that as many people in the local area as possible know your name, and without the intention of ‘selling’ anything. Below are some tips to help you get started.

1. Have publicity material that simply says who you are

The majority of our members produce concert/event flyers and recruitment materials – all of which is trying to sell a specific thing or target a specific audience. But for an awareness campaign, you don’t need to sell or to target. So consider having a flyer or postcard that simply says the name of your group, what you do and where more information can be found, without trying to sell anything. This could potentially be so generic that it could be handed out anywhere, to anyone, at any time. You could also have banners that can be displayed whenever your group is on show - some groups have t-shirts or polo shirts for their members to wear. You might also consider other marketing materials: for example mugs or cloth bags that you can sell or give away. It is worth investing some money to make sure these materials are as attractive as possible - make sure you use good quality images and/or logos. The key here is to get your name and your brand out there – give as many people as possible as many chances as possible to see and hear your name as part of their daily lives.

2. Connect via social media

Follow local businesses, community groups, local interest groups, prominent local figures and local councillors on social media. Look at what they post, comment on it, repost it – they’ll see that you are active, will get to know your name and profile and might even return the favour. Don’t forget to share local stories on social media, don’t just use it as another promotional tool – show that you take an interest in the community as a whole.

3. Use your membership

Your members are your best ambassadors so encourage them to get involved in raising the profile of your group. Let them know what you are trying to achieve and how they can help. Encourage them to distribute your publicity materials and to talk about your group to their own local connections – maybe they are in local parent support groups or they regularly talk to other local parents, or they might be active on local web forums, or they can use their own social media accounts to repost your own content. They might also have some profile-raising suggestions of their own.

4. Get involved with other local community groups and events

If there is a local festival or fayre coming up, or a weekly street market, can you have a presence at it? Whether that’s providing some performers for musical entertainment, having a stand or stall, or simply being allowed to display or hand out some of your marketing materials – anything that allows you to let people know that you exist. And don’t forget that this is an ongoing process – the more you put yourselves out there, the more reasons people have not only to discover you, but also to be reminded of you. Some avenues you could explore include:

  • Link with local drama or sports groups: maybe you could provide background music for their events and fundraisers, but certainly you could share community knowledge and marketing resources.
  • Get involved with seasonal events in your community such as the switching on of Christmas lights, or fireworks displays – these often welcome performers.

5. Give to receive

Too often we seek local connections because we want something particular. But a good rule of thumb is that before you ask for something, you should give something. If you are generous to the people in your community, then they are more likely to be generous to you.

For example: you could offer a pair of complimentary concert tickets to local businesses, or contact them to ask if they would like some (free) entertainment at their Christmas parties. Your initial contact should not be about making money or gaining audiences, but simply about letting people know that you are there.

6. Allow your relationships time to grow

All relationships take time to grow and need nurturing. The key to forming a lasting relationship with any person or organisation within your community is to gain their trust, respect and loyalty. You can do this by giving them the kind of support you would like to receive from them in the future, thinking long term about your relationships and not expecting instant results. Think of it as a plant that you have to water regularly before it can blossom.

7. Take the personal approach

You’re more likely to be remembered if you talk to people face to face rather than using email, social media or publicity materials. Whenever possible, meet people in person. Don’t ‘sell’ or ‘recruit’ but instead focus on the best things about your group and talk them up: the benefits your members get from it, the social aspects of attending musical rehearsals and performances, how much you yourself enjoy the music and why it’s important to you. Enthusiasm is catching, so don’t be afraid to share yours!

8. Know what you want before you ask for it – and start small

When you do get to the stage where you want or need to ask for something, decide specifically what that will be before you go and ask. For example: you might know that you want a sponsor, but how much do you want, and for how long? People may respond better if you ask for something small: a local business might not be able to sponsor a whole concert, but it could be that they are willing to offer a small amount – and every penny counts! Don’t ruin the good work you have done building up a relationship, by making unreasonable requests. Don’t forget you don’t always need to ask for money – you could ask for raffle prizes, poster display space, meeting or rehearsal accommodation, professional advice…… anything is possible. And if you do ask for something, have something to offer in return and make it clear to your potential donor what’s in it for them.

9. Be open and welcoming in all that you do

With any luck your awareness campaign will result in new people turning up to your rehearsals and performances. Make sure that these people have an experience to remember, so that they will want to come back! Consider how they get the information about where they need to go, what sort of welcome they get when they walk in the door, and how the whole experience might look from their point of view. If you have given out complimentary tickets to a performance, be on the lookout for people bearing them and ensure they are suitably greeted and looked after.

10. Keep in touch

Finally, once you have built up a relationship with a local person or organisation, maintain it by keeping in touch with them. Consider regular newsletters that they can subscribe to – you might consider separate ones for audiences and local business contacts - and keep in touch on social media. Regularly visit in person your key contacts at local businesses and organisations, and don’t forget to show an interest in what they are doing too, by sharing their marketing materials and turning up to their events (with your group branded t-shirt on of course!).

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.