by Rebecca Undem
• Small community promotion
Rural America is dying ...
Or, so they say.
Whoever “they” are.
But, I personally know the grit, determination, and passion that many people who choose to live and work in rural America have. I’m one of them.
And that’s the thing “they” don’t know.
Your community can defy the odds.
Because what got you where you are today won’t get you where you need to be tomorrow.
Here are a few practical, simple strategies you can implement right now:
1. Start thinking about your community as if it were a business.Consider the answers to the following questions for your rural community.
- How do we recruit people to live and own businesses in our community?
- Once they’re here, how do we actively engage them by creating a culture where they feel like they fit?
- How do we market what our rural community has to offer?
- How do we engage across the generations to ensure the standard motto of “But this is the way we’ve always done it!” isn’t creating barriers to bringing new people and new ideas to the table?
2. Stop treating neighboring communities like competition.Here’s a hard truth for all of us living and working in rural America: we need to get over ourselves. There may have been a time when marketing, advertising, and promoting only within the walls of your own community was enough to be successful.
This is no longer the case.
With online shopping and a myriad of distractions vying for our attention, we need to reach beyond our community borders to be heard at all.
Moving from a community-only focus to more of a regional focus allows communities to pool resources from talent to finances, allowing us to leverage the age-old adage “we’re better together.” We should collaborate, not compete.
We can start by thinking about how to work together to market, recruit, and attract both residents and visitors to the entire region, rather than having tunnel vision focused only on our own community.
3. Promote “The Power of One” throughout your community.Most of us are familiar with the Pareto principle which suggests that 80% of our results come from 20% of our activities. This plays out in communities with 80% of the work being carried out by only 20% of the people.
This crucial 20% of your community are the movers and shakers. They’re the ones who get things done.
They are also the ones who are getting tired. And the ones who eventually burn out.
“The Power of One” is a concept that can alleviate some of the pressure this small group faces.
Essentially, “The Power of One”: encourages and continually promotes the idea that one person can make a difference by choosing just one event/cause/idea they are passionate about and want to support and choosing at least one every year. One person, one event, one time a year.
Seems obvious I know, but I guarantee if you look around your community, you’ll see many faces that never get involved.
They aren’t necessarily lazy. (Although, some may be.)
They may not know what’s available to them. They may have never been asked.
To encourage the participation of more individuals in the well-being and promotion of your community, here are a few considerations:
- The opportunities available for board participation and volunteering must be easy to find and easy to understand. (Your community’s website, chamber’s website and other main sources of information should continually refer to the opportunities available for people to get involved.)
- The expectations of any of the above must be clearly communicated. “Tribal knowledge” is often a factor. When the same people have done the same thing for so many years, all the knowledge of how things are done is literally in their heads. When they leave, the knowledge of “how things are done around here” leaves right along with them. Write things down. Formalize policies/processes. Help people learn what is expected of them.
- Open-mindedness is key. When new people join a board or a committee, they may be hesitant to speak up for fear of “rocking the boat” or upsetting a veteran member. Everyone needs to embrace fresh energy and new ideas, even if in the minds of those in the group firmly believe “we’ve already tried that…10 years ago.” Nothing will kill the spirit of a new volunteer like being shot down every time they open their mouth.
But the truth is this: we can’t wait for someone else to swoop in and do it for us.
It’s up to each of us to take responsibility for the culture created within our communities by getting involved and encouraging others to do the same.
With a determined mindset, your community can defy the odds.
A professional development expert with nearly a decade of experience, she’s a highly sought after speaker, traveling the country, sharing her message of how to live BIG regardless of what you do for a profession or where you happen to be.
When she’s not writing or developing solutions to help individuals, businesses, and communities think bigger and challenge the status quo, you can find Rebecca cleaning up a variety of messes made by her three young children or her farming husband.
She is excited to announce the release of her first book How Mommy Got Her Groove BackTM, available now.
Visit www.rebeccaundem.com for actionable and inspirational tips for getting your own groove back!