Today, we will be hosting our seventh broadband workshop in Missoula, Montana, where we will have the chance to hear from local leaders, broadband providers, community groups and others. Issues teed up include the importance of engaging with stakeholders who are key to any broadband project’s success. But it’s not always easy to identify who key stakeholders are or the best ways to engage them to help contribute to a broadband project’s success.
To help communities and organizations launch successful broadband projects and generate support from potential users, we created a new toolkit with insights into effective stakeholder outreach gleaned from NTIA’s broadband work over the last seven years. The “Introduction to Stakeholder Outreach” details tools and proven best practices to help communities generate support for broadband projects and share the importance of broadband with key stakeholders.
This toolkit is the latest in a series to complement the technical assistance NTIA is providing through the BroadbandUSA program. These guides include Planning a Community Broadband Roadmap, Guide to Federal Funding of Broadband Projects, Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships and a Broadband Adoption Toolkit.
The stakeholder outreach toolkit outlines a five-step process to effectively engage with stakeholders, which may include existing broadband providers, community organizations such as the local chambers of commerce or nonprofits that serve local residents, government officials, and potential funders of a project. These five steps include:
· Developing an outreach plan
· Getting to know and understand the needs of stakeholders
· Selecting outreach tactics and tools to effectively meet stakeholder needs and project objectives
· Identifying and engaging with partners that are invested in the project’s success
· Evaluating the impact of outreach efforts
The toolkit emphasizes the importance of maintaining an open dialogue with key stakeholders, being transparent about a project’s goals and the methods for achieving them, and tailoring broadband messaging to stakeholder groups. It outlines strategies for prioritizing engagement and the importance of developing a flexible approach that can be adjusted to changing circumstances or needs.
The toolkit also includes examples of successful stakeholder outreach strategies deployed by some of NTIA’s broadband grant recipients. For example, NTIA grantee the Montana State Library, which received a $1.8 million grant to enhance and expand access to broadband in libraries, formed partnerships with public and private organizations such as AARP Montana and the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to help increase awareness about the computer and Internet resources available at Montana libraries. Some of the strategies it deployed included print materials such as bookmarks and posters; thumb drives with preloaded library materials, and television and radio public service announcements.
Among the most important lessons learned that the toolkit highlights is the need to involve stakeholders at every stage of the process to better understand their needs and expectations and ensure appropriate buy-in from the project’s users. We look forward to continuing to engage with communities across the country on how we can assist in efforts to ensure their citizens have access to the infrastructure and skills needed to succeed in the digital economy. We encourage communities that have questions about stakeholder outreach or other issues related to broadband access and adoption to reach out to our BroadbandUSA team at broadbandusa.
Director, External Affairs
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce