National Ride to Work Day – the importance of promotion

Yesterday was National Ride to Work Day and I rode to Uni. The Tom Farrell Institute and NUBUG helped to organise the Uni event and the bike “bus” routes, and the Forum provided a free breakfast.

Almost 100 people registered for the Uni ride although there were only around 50 people at the breakfast. For a Uni the size of Newcastle, this is a bit of a disappointing response.

Only 1.6% of trips in Newcastle are by bike (Newcastle Draft Cycling and Action Plan). According to the plan, there have also been significant increases in the percentage of children being driven to school. In 1971, 25.5% of children aged five to nine were driven to school, but by 2003 this percentage had climbed to 66.6%. Increasing the number of people who ride instead of driving is good for the environment and people’s health.

Community engagement strategies will be important in encouraging people to switch to their bikes. The low numbers at the Ride to Uni day show the importance of publicity and promotion in community engagement.  Marketing isn’t really community engagement, but it is often an important component of community engagement. If people don’t know about opportunities for engagement and if the activities aren’t inviting, then they are unlikely to participate.

I have been involved in many activities where organisers have been disappointed by the number of people who have shown up. Community groups need to think carefully about how they will promote their events and encourage people to attend. I must admit, I’m not good at marketing and promotion and it is a skill I would like to develop.

It is a shame that more people weren’t at the breakfast. There was plenty of food (not much vegetarian besides sweet stuff) and I had some interesting chats to a people and made some useful connections. I wonder how else they could have promoted it. I think they had done quite a bit, but it can be very hard to get the word out. I was cranky that I forgot to remind people at work because I’m sure a few more would have ridden if they had been reminded. Using word of mouth is very powerful for promoting these types of events.

While the number of people at the breakfast was a bit disappointing, of course many more people rode to Uni than attended breakfast. (E.g., five people rode to my work, but I was the only one at the breakfast.)

Community engagement requires a range of skills and if, like me, you aren’t good at promotion, maybe it is important to team up with people who are.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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