Broadband Communities

OCT 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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48 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | OCTOBER 2017 COMMUNITY BROADBAND Engaging the Community Generating community support for a broadband project is critical for its success. By Bob Knight / Harrison Edwards A mericans love their internet. ey want to be connected at home, at work, in stores, in their cars, on farms and even in the subway. ey want to connect the things they use – cars, appliances, roadways and pacemakers – to the internet, too. e future depends on it. Continuous connectivity breeds innovative technologies that can make life better, safer and more fruitful. Why, then, is there public resistance to broadband deployment? Communities tend to object to broadband projects because they don't want their tax dollars to fund them; they are fearful of seeing more wires, boxes and cells in their towns and neighborhoods; and they feel like pawns with no say in what will happen. Simply put, communities need to be educated about broadband projects to achieve buy-in and political will. But educating a community is not so simple. Engineering consent requires perseverance and a strategic communications plan, but the payoff is big. Public support puts wind in the sails of broadband projects, as officials and regulators are influenced by the people they answer to – the public. ough each strategic communications plan needs to be tailored to its specific community and circumstances, certain basics should be followed, no matter whether the deployer is a private company, a government entity or a public-private partnership. 1. Identify your stakeholders. e "public" is a broad term that includes multiple subgroups. Stakeholders may be public officials, business leaders, educators, parents, community activists, veterans and senior groups. Identify the groups that make your community tick. Remember, stakeholders can become your champions! 2. Identify stakeholders' concerns and issues. Doing this helps you know how broadband deployment will specifically benefit each group. How will you know what they're thinking? Just listen. Are you speaking at people or are you listening? Find out each stakeholder group's pain points and hopes. A strategic communications plan is based on that information. 3. Create a message map. is is where the rubber meets the road. Now that you've heard what your stakeholder groups have to say, create messages and marketing tactics that will resonate. e success or failure of the project can hinge on communicating the right messages. 4. Choose your tools. ere are many marketing tools – meetings, press releases, ads, social media, digital marketing, events – and they all work. Which tools you should use depends on your overall strategy. Remember to lead with your strategy, not with your tactics (tools). Too many communities take tactical approaches, such as producing a one-off event or issuing a press release, and ignore the bigger picture. en they wonder why they have trouble driving broadband projects forward. 5. Promote continual, two-way conversations. Do you have a project website? A Facebook page? Do you have key details and FAQs that are easily accessible?

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