You know that you need skatepark supporters but when you’re just starting out it’s not often clear where to begin. There are two things to consider while you’re thinking about how you can tell your community about the skatepark and (hopefully) gain their support. There is WHAT you say and WHO you say it to. This first section focuses on WHO. After that you’ll learn WHAT you might say.
You can imagine that every person in your community will fall somewhere on this spectrum:
- NO AWARENESS
- Never heard of the skatepark. Don’t even know what a skatepark is. Don’t care.
- Know about skateboarding but have limited awareness of skateparks.
- Are aware of skateparks but hadn’t heard of anything happening locally.
- Aware of some interest in building a local skatepark.
- Know that there are people in the community pushing for a new skatepark.
- Are aware of the skatepark and have opinions about it.
- Support the idea of a new skatepark philosophically.
- Support the skatepark and are willing to express that support in some way to others.
- Are willing to donate their time, goods, or cash to the project, (or some other item of value).
- TOTAL SUPPORT
As an advocate, your goal is to move that person into the next category of awareness. If they have never considered skateparks at all, you might tell them a little about what skateparks are and how they benefit a community. If they are already somewhere in the middle, you might want to talk to them and figure out how to get them into a more supportive role.
You will do this again and again and again for many months. You will find yourself talking about the new skatepark in the grocery store, at school or work, at meetings, and so on. You will become known as “that skatepark person.”
How To Reach Out
You have lots of people in your community that you want to talk to about the skatepark, and you have lots of ways to share the skatepark message with them. The best way to share the skatepark message is through a face-to-face conversation. Nothing has as much influence as simply talking with someone about the skatepark.
When given the option between two equally important audiences, you should aim for presenting the skatepark to the smaller group This will provide you and your audience the best opportunity to establish a personal stake in the project. You will generally get better support by talking one-on-one with a neighbor than you will by presenting the skatepark to a group of a dozen neighbors at once. When you are having a one-on-one conversation you can better understand what that person’s priorities and interests are. When you are talking about skateboarding and the skatepark, you can use terms that relate to that person’s priorities and interests. This becomes more difficult with larger audiences.
For example, imagine that you are talking with a neighbor that is concerned about the noise that a new skatepark will make. You can talk with this person about the kinds of sounds that come from a typical skatepark, and perhaps why skating in a park is quieter than skating on the sidewalk. Now imagine that you didn’t have this conversation and are relying on Facebook posts to communicate the skatepark concept to the community. You may think that you’re reaching hundreds of people, but the neighbor that you didn’t talk to specifically about their noise concerns probably hasn’t joined the Facebook group and, as a result, is a potential ally that you didn’t reach.
Who To Reach First
You should have a general strategy for reaching your community. You should start with the people closest to you, then the groups that those people belong to, and then other groups in the community, and eventually the city government.
- If you’re a skateboarder, reach out to other skateboarders in your area.
- Talk to your family, colleagues, teachers, and the people you deal with on a regular basis.
- Reach out to the groups that those people belong to. This might be a church, social club, fraternal order, business association, civic or nonprofit organization, and so on.
- Establish your social media presence and contacts with local journalists.
- Create a partnership with your local government.
Each of these steps is an ongoing effort. When you begin talking to your family and colleagues, for example, you should continue reaching out to other skaters in the area, (even though that was an earlier stage in your outreach strategy).
The amount of time you spend on each type of audience in this sample strategy depends on the size of your community and how much work you are willing to put into it. The more energy you put into building community awareness, the faster the skatepark will get built.