Decibel has been reporting in Del Valle for six months. In July, we started experimenting with a new form of outreach. While we had success in our virtual listening sessions, we knew there were still community members Decibel was not reaching. Since Covid-19 numbers were low at the time, we knew we had to take the opportunity. Our team contacted partners and asked them to let us set up a table at their locations so we could sit down with folks face-to-face.
Before our events, our team prepared promotional materials to hand out. Our materials included our name, why community involvement is important to us and instructions on how to submit story ideas, including a QR code that linked them directly to a submission form. This allowed people to submit stories at any time, not just when they were with our team at a table. After the initial design was shown to us, we made some changes to make our flyers more personable.
As our materials developed, we researched businesses in the area who could host us. Decibel reached out to over 40 potential partners to make ourselves accessible to the community. Most of them did not respond or declined our request.
Our success came from partnering with organizations we had already met through some of our reporting. A staff member of the Garfield Public Library had attended one of our virtual listening sessions in June and was excited to have us. Decibel visited the Garfield Public Library’s Story Time on July 15 and spoke to about five people. At the library, a participant said it was really awesome to see Decibel out in their community. It made them feel like we really cared about them.
Next, Decibel moved on to Cottonwood Baptist Church. Two weeks prior, we released a story about how members of the congregation were addressing food insecurity in their community. We believed they would make a good partner due to their dedication to Del Valle and because our team had already worked with them. Those who were part of the story were happy to see our team again.
A member of Cottonwood Baptist Church said our coverage of their church was wonderful. While we spoke to several churchgoers in passing, none sat down to speak with us. Our team encouraged those unable to stay to take a flyer so they could complete the survey at home.
However, many churchgoers were older adults who were confused about how to use the code. We had an iPad and keyboard for them to use but were told by somoeone that the survey questions were hard to answer.
Decibel did not receive new story ideas from either event, but learned a lot from our efforts. First, Decibel is considering other methods for receiving feedback like using an easy to remember url or paper forms. To avoid confusion in the future, our team will be changing our survey questions to be more conversational.
Decibel will continue to build relationships with local organizations and hold community events as long as it is safe to do so. Our team wants to show the community that we care and want to hear from them. Due to Covid-19 reaching Stage 5 in Austin, we are not sure when our next event will be.
If you would like to partner with us or have a story idea, please email us at email@example.com.
Got story ideas, advice on how we can improve our reporting or just want to know more about what we do? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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