Q&A with Team Goff: Finding inspiration

As our team continues to work from home, we’ve been checking in to see what everyone’s new routines are, how they are staying busy and how they are adapting to the current state of the world.

This week we asked: where are you pulling inspiration from right now?

Caroline’s bright workspace in Saint Paul.

“All the essential workers, not just the folks in the hospitals but the folks in grocery stores, the pharmacies, big box retailers. Those who help bring us what we need.” – Pierre Willette

“I’ve been pulling inspiration from being outside, especially when it’s nice out. Moving around, looking at something that’s not a screen in my apartment, and people watching (from a safe distance!) helps enormously in switching up my thought process and getting inspired.” – Caroline Burns

“I’m pulling my inspiration from the helpers all around us and by spending time outside.” – Heidi Larson

“Most of my inspiration comes from our clients. There are some truly incredible things being done by businesses, nonprofits, government entities and other organizations right now to keep people safe, support local businesses and lift people’s spirits.” – Ashley Aram

“I love seeing all of the chalk artwork and hearts in people’s windows on my runs and walks around the neighborhood. It’s nice to see our community sharing messages of hope with each other.” – Sara Swenson

Community engagement during COVID-19: Focus on the fundamentals

By Sara Swenson

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, large gatherings and in-person public meetings have come to a halt, leaving many organizations wondering how to seek valuable community feedback around important issues or projects that need to keep moving forward.

In this new environment, the methods for community relations have changed, but the fundamental goal of meeting people where they are still rings true. Successful community engagement in the time of COVID-19 focuses on doing just that through these key components:

Host online meetings to gather feedback. Online public meetings can provide a great forum for feedback. Use a platform such as Zoom, WebEx or Facebook Premiere to share an update and engage with the public virtually. Facebook Premiere allows you to prerecord a presentation for people to watch together live, so that you can interact and answer questions in real time. After the presentation, seek additional feedback through online surveys.

Rely on existing captive audiences. Partner with chambers of commerce, elected officials, advocacy groups and other organizations that have a built-in audience and connect with people through existing webinars and virtual events.

Think outside the (digital) box. As people are getting outside more, try using sidewalk or window decals to share information with people walking by – or try your hand at sharing messages in chalk. Some communities have limited internet access. Instead, use a more traditional route of printed flyers or mailers to gain their valuable insight.

Try boosted social posts. Boosted posts will help you break through the clutter on social media to target the right demographic. For a minimal investment you can more effectively reach the audiences you need to.

Be transparent. Transparency remains as critical as ever. Use plain language, post recordings of virtual meetings online and show how community input is being incorporated into projects. Watch this video to learn more about plain language.

Consider some of these ways to connect and remain committed to meeting people where they are, and you can have a successful community engagement campaign – even in the midst of our current turbulent times.

Engaging legislators in the age of COVID-19

By Elizabeth Emerson

The scenes of the State Capitol during session are typically ones of bustling halls, large public gatherings in the rotunda and passionate, in-person testimonies by Minnesotans. But in my years both in government and representing the interests of our community, I have never seen a session like this.

With the halls of the Capitol now largely empty, engaging in the legislative process is challenging. We’re having to collectively navigate virtual testimony, attempt to engage legislators who are working remotely and deal with a lack of public notification surrounding legislative activity. This can be particularly frustrating at a time when organizations and the general public are turning to elected officials for policy and economic solutions – even the government’s biggest critics are looking to them for leadership and certainty.

Despite these frustrations, one thing is certain: our state legislators remain people, just like you and me, and are experiencing this pandemic and the anxieties that come with it in kind.

Here are a few reflections on what this lobbyist has observed during this time in hopes that it may help you navigate our new, temporary normal at the Minnesota Capitol:

Be mindful of your tone and message. While some legislators are ready to talk about issues other than COVID-19, some aren’t. Being thoughtful about where a legislator is coming from and acknowledging that will allow you to engage appropriately. Now more than ever, being authentic will allow your message to break through.

Know who you know…and who you don’t. Now is a difficult, if not impossible, moment to build new relationships – not only because lawmakers are working remotely but also because they are operating in crisis mode. Focus your energies on the leaders you know.

Attempting to introduce yourself to legislators or administrative leaders and then quickly influence an outcome or decision is always difficult – even more so now. When we return to our post-pandemic lives, take the time to proactively get to know the leaders who can have a significant impact on your organization.

Politicians don’t have all the answers. We are in uncertain, uncharted territory. I’ve personally been impressed at the agility of our state government in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. We need to remind ourselves that the structures and processes being flexed right now were not built overnight, and leaders must take tremendous care as they consider how and when to modify or dismantle these things for fear of increased disaster. No one likes waiting, particularly when the health, safety, and economic vitality of our businesses and families are at stake. But be assured, there is a process and leaders are listening. Sometimes “please wait” is the only answer – and our state leaders are as uncomfortable with this uncertainty as we are.

In a world preoccupied with COVID-19, is your story worth sharing?

By Chris Duffy

In these unprecedented times, the instinct for many is to push the pause button on certain facets of doing business, including public relations. But I believe that telling your story is more important than ever before – it just has to be told through a different lens. While it’s difficult to gain attention for anything that isn’t related to the ongoing pandemic, audiences, publications and news outlets are starving for stories that show innovation, human resiliency and kindness. Following is a checklist of questions to consider when determining if your story is worthy of the spotlight in a COVID-19 world.

– Can your story be somehow tied to COVID-19 and the current state of the world?

– Does your story provide a solution to a problem that exists because of our new reality?

– Is your story uplifting, or are you or someone at your organization doing something good for the community?

– Does your story provide a new or different perspective on COVID-19?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above questions, you should proceed with sharing your story publicly – but make sure to do it with compassion. While people are tuning into the headlines more than before, their mindsets are different. Anything that feels like an attempt to capitalize on our current global situation is not likely to be well received.