As the temperatures warm, many of us are itching to hit the trails and get outside to ride and build! Clubs across Canada are hosting Annual General Meetings and beginning the process of planning and spreading the word about the awesome projects and events planned for the upcoming season. With all of those great things about to launch and take place, I felt it is a great time to offer some great “Tips and Tricks” that clubs, members and advocates can use to engage and spread the great word about what you are doing.

Like any great relationship, communication is key. In this post, I will outline some examples of what I have seen work well and what might not work so well. These are by no means the be-all or end-all of engagement techniques, but hopefully they can help you, your club or community better address, announce and engage with others regarding the great work we are all doing for mountain biking and trails!

Annual General Meetings – AGMs are popping up all across Canada this time of year with clubs keen to get together, meet, and plan for the upcoming season while building the stoke for what is to come. This is one of the greatest ways clubs can engage with their membership to announce new ideas, vote in a new Board or Executive members, drive membership and other fun things. Many times this is where many of those larger macro ideas and plans are formed and can start to take place. A strong showing from members can allow the club to directly engage with its most supportive audience!

One thing to consider for your club and its AGM is to open the invite out to others that may not be members. By others, I mean invite the hiking or ATV club out to see what you are up to. That is a great way to bring different groups together so that they can see what your club is planning and who knows, you may even get a few new members out of that invite! If there is conflict between different groups I would hold off on that invite as the AGM is meant to be a positive gathering and free of conflict; other than members arguing over 26” vs 27.5” vs 29” wheel sizes of course.

Social Media/Web Presence – Social media and an active web presence are great ways to engage with your audience and members to help tell your story, promote and push events, and generally offer great, quick hits about the club and what it’s up to. More and more, society is using social media and web-based content for their information gathering and decision making so clubs, organizations and communities need to keep up in order to stay relevant and visible.

When posting to social media a great picture is fine, but try and tell a story with that shot or find a narrative that the post or picture can tell. Any one of us can stand the bike up in front of a nice view, but if you can find a way to make your posts unique, then typically that post will garner more ‘likes’ and reach. Go out of your way to find unique angles, different lighting or just a whole different approach altogether. Dawn patrols are great for this as it’s a great excuse for a morning ride and you always get some awesome lighting through the trees, on trail or riders; and if you can find that dew covered spider web while you’re at it, then you’ve probably hit the jackpot! (Those that have seen those shots on Pinkbike know exactly what I mean!)

One thing to consider with Social Media, and I can attest to this as I have fallen victim at times, is try not to use that platform in a confronting or negative way with posts or comments. You will never be able to please everyone and sometimes, if you are posting trail photos, damage or work, because of a lack of context (or because some people just enjoy creating conflict) there may be comments that you don’t agree with or get you a little fired up. That is fine and perfectly normal, but instead of using that platform to comment or snap back, a simple reply to get together for a face to face conversation always works better and keeps things positive and professional online and in the public eye.

Local News/Media – A great thing to consider for your AGM and all events for that matter, is to invite the local news media out to attend and take into account what your club is doing. Many communities, other than where the large and very well-established clubs are, may not even know that there is a strong MTB club and presence and that your club is providing great work to the community and helping to grow the outdoor recreation offer available. There’s nothing like a great story and photo in the local paper or a 5-minute clip on the news to help show the community what you are up to!

Community/Stakeholder Engagement – If you or your club are planning any major work; new trails, a master plan, or major rerouting/changes, this is a great opportunity to reach out to the broader community to inform them of your plans. Unlike an AGM that is an annual gathering with primarily like-minded people, a community stakeholder event is a great way to inform and gather feedback on proposed or planned work on the trails or network you manage. Some land managers actually make this mandatory and much like you would see if your city is planning a new park or arena, this is a great way to put the word out as to what your club is looking to do and gather feedback or ideas that you may not have thought of. The work may still continue, but you may have learned a few things that others in the community may want to see and again offers a great way for your club to engage with the community in the public eye in a positive way.

Engagement is a huge part of advocacy and a large part of our expertise at IMBA Canada so if you want any assistance in terms of larger engagement with your community, land manager, etc, please do not hesitate to reach out and we can assist you in any way you need to help ensure success! I hope that these quick tips and tricks help you and your local club spread the word about all the great work and events you plan on doing in 2019. As always, if you are posting photos, trail days or events on Social media, be sure to tag @IMBACanada and we will be happy to share that on your behalf.

– Justin Truelove
Trails Specialist, Program Manager
justin.truelove@imbacanada.com

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