31 August, 2013

Using "Force Multipliers" To Grow And Promote Your Neighborhood Watch

While there is absolutely no substitute for knocking on doors and talking directly to your neighbors about your new neighborhood watch program, there are other "force multipliers" neighborhood watch programs can use to accelerate growth.

Free or "Earned" Media:
Most neighborhood watch groups don't have any money for TV, newspaper or radio advertising, so to get any traditional media coverage they have to make local media outlets want to cover them. This is why my neighborhood watch group has booked interesting speakers through the end of the year - lawmakers, prosecutors, probation officers. Almost anytime an elected official speaks at a gathering, it's newsworthy so reporters will cover the event which helps publicize your neighborhood watch group.

Learn to write a media release and send it to the appropriate traditional media outlets. With a little luck, your media release may hit a news desk on a slow news day and you may find that even your mundane meetings will get coverage.

Just by sending out a few media releases I was invited to write articles and appear on radio talk shows where I promoted an event that was expected to draw only 30-40 registrants but ended up getting hundreds of registrants because of the added free media coverage. All I had to do was write the media releases, send them to some media outlets and wait for the news people to contact me. Good things come to those who know how to write a media release.

Social Media:
When I booked Delegate Suzette Raines to speak at our September 3 meeting, I Tweeted it. Suzette and her friend, Jessica Ralston, re-tweeted my original tweet and it went to thousands of people. Free. 

Folks, it's time to stop pretending you don't know about Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, blogs and other social media platforms. Since neighborhood watch groups don't have any money, it is imperative that we take advantage of this free, fast means of getting your message out to hundreds or even thousands of people through the use of technology you're already paying for anyway. If you have a computer or smart phone with internet connectivity you already have everything you need to put the power of social media to work to build your neighborhood watch. Social Media is not going away. Open a free Twitter account, open a free Facebook account, start a free blog on Google's Blogspot, open a free Linkedin account. Don't worry if you don't know how to use social media. None of us knew how to use social media when we started but we learned by doing.

Make yourself easy to find. It's hard for people to take you seriously if you haven't taken advantage of the free means of making yourself findable.  Start a neighborhood watch group (not a page) on Facebook. Facebook groups provide a sort of virtual town hall where members can carry on conversations with each other. Start a Linkedin group. Get out of the "witness protection program" and get on the internet where people can find you.
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