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Publicizing Your Open Participation Survey

Tips on how to craft messages through email, social media, press releases and more!

Get your survey in the hands of your community using as many of  these main communications channels as possible:  

  • Website (pages, blog posts and FAQs)
  • Email (utilities, recreation, communication lists)
  • Social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Printed documents 
  • Press releases
  • Meetings and other in-person opportunities

In addition, partner with as many city departments, public agencies and non-governmental organizations to forward and echo your messages.

General tips on messaging—these always apply!

  • Let residents know why their response is important and how you will use the information.
  • Give them a call to action—let them know what to do.
  • Keep it short, interesting and easy to understand.
  • Link to your Polco survey short URL.

Specific Tips by communication channel


This is your homebase - an outreach channel and a resource.

  • Post the Polco survey short URL on your homepage and department pages.
  • Create a blog article explaining why the City is doing the survey. 
    • Why is it valuable?
    • How will feedback be used?
    • How do you access the survey? (Link to your Polco short URL)
    • Link to privacy policy for how data is protected
  • Create a FAQ page. 
    • Another informational area where you can spell out details.
    • Link to this page to keep other messages short. 

Example blog: 

The City of XYZ is excited to partner with Polco to implement a citywide survey and provide a platform for resident engagement. 

We need to hear from as many residents as possible to ensure your voices drive policy. Getting input from a wide array of residents will help us understand our strengths and areas for improvement and ensure that we understand the values of our community.  It will let us be sure that we are representing our neighbors in the large and small decisions we make about programs, policies and strategic plans. 

A few things about completing the survey on Polco:

  • Polco allows the City to reach out to residents through different communication channels (social media, email, websites, etc.) while gathering resident responses in one central location.
  • Polco keeps individual opinions anonymous to the City, while allowing City staff to see broad demographic and geographic breakdowns.
  • When the survey closes, results will be presented online in interactive charts and tables. 
  • We will ask you to provide an email address and zip code to submit the survey, this ensures one response per person and allows us to follow up with future research, while keeping your responses anonymous to us, and ensuring your privacy.

We hope that, by providing this quick and simple input process, we will hear from more people in our community and from people from varied backgrounds, who have different experiences and interests. 

You can respond to the survey here {URL} 

Also please share the URL and encourage your friends and neighbors to participate as well!

Starter list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What does Polco do with my personal information (email and ZIP code)? Why am I asked for it? Why do I have to create an account?
    • Polco uses your ZIP code and email address to verify your residency. With verified respondents, we can reduce the risk of one person answering many times. By entering your email address, you can create an account and find out when we post a new question on Polco.
  • What is Polco? Why isn’t this polling done by the local government?
    • Polco is a private company that helps residents give input to their local governments to better inform policy decisions. Using Polco saves the local government money by replacing older, more expensive methods of getting input. It saves staff from having to build and maintain online engagement tools or manage multiple input channels. The app and the website let a broader range of people give public input, and they protect respondents’ privacy. Your personal information is never shared with anyone, not even your local government.
  • Why am I receiving weekly emails?
    • If we have posted a question on Polco within the past 30 days and you have not answered it, you will receive a weekly email. You can opt out of these emails at any time.
  • I no longer want to receive emails. How do I stop them from coming?
    • At the bottom of each email is a link to stop receiving messages. Simply click the link and follow the instructions to unsubscribe.
  • Why did I receive a question from groups that aren’t my municipal or county government?
    • Polco helps build and sustain a healthy dialogue about public policy in our communities. While most questions posted on Polco are from local governments and elected officials, a few other agencies might also use Polco: news organizations, school or special districts, universities and nonprofits. If your city overlaps boundaries with any of these entities, you can choose to subscribe to get their questions too. You will not receive those questions without your consent


Email is easy and can reach a wide range of residents.

  • Inventory all your email lists from different departments (communications, utilities, libraries, housing, recreation centers and programs, etc.).
  • Check in with non-governmental partners who may be willing to send invitations to their email lists (sports leagues, arts groups, other affinity groups, Chambers of Commerce, service leagues, neighborhood associations, religious groups, etc.).
  • Ask other public agencies to spread the word (school and other special districts).
  • Think about how to reach residents with diverse backgrounds and broad interests.
  • If your jurisdiction regularly sends out an email newsletter, share the news there. You can include a link to more information on your website, link to the blog and even embed the survey link on a MailChimp post (if you use it).

Template message (edit to be true and relevant for your organization and residents)

Dear Resident {or use the actual first name if you can pipe that in},

We think your input is critical to good government and are excited to introduce a new and easy way for you to provide your opinions on specific topics to the City of XYZ. Your feedback will help us be sure that our policies and programs align with our residents’ values.

We just published a survey on Polco that you can answer here: polco.us/[shorturl]. It will take about 15 minutes. Polco will help us efficiently manage responses from you and your neighbors across the City as we reach out via email, social media and other channels. 

Once you have answered the survey, you will be asked to provide your ZIP code and email address to confirm where you live. This allows us to be sure we are hearing from each person only once and to know which general area of the city they live in. Your response will remain anonymous to the City, but your information will be securely stored on Polco. Your email will be used only to let you know about questions from the City (or if you choose, other public agencies) when we occasionally need your feedback.

Complete the survey here [link to Blog] and see their Privacy Policy here.

Thank you for your time! 


Social Media Posts

Most of your community stakeholders use social media, and so do you!

  • Send through both main and department accounts.
  • Email your partners and staff to ask them to share and retweet.
  • Be sure not to use words such as “like and share” on Facebook, or the algorithm will limit the reach of your post.
  • Adapt the length of your social media messages to each platform. 
    • Nextdoor posts can be a bit longer (you could use the email template).
    • Facebook posts are short.
    • Twitter has a maximum of 280 characters.
    • Instagram and Snapchat are short and visual.
  • Boost your Facebook posts for a small cost, ask Polco to take care of it or use this how-to guide.
  • Add a hashtag on Twitter: #[juridiction.name].
  • Include your survey URL in all social media postspolco.us/[abcdef].
  • Be clear on the action—they need to go to Polco (and not respond in the Facebook comments). Feel free to comment under your social media post to encourage stakeholders to complete the survey on Polco. Some stakeholders comment on social media anyway. In that case, you can reply with a comment to them, thanking them for their input and encouraging them to complete the survey on Polco so their opinion can be considered in City plans.
  • Tailor the message. Be a little wary of a social media message template—if you reuse the same language, people will think they already interacted with your new post.
  • Be sure to include only one call to action and only one link within each social media post. 
  • We recommend keeping links at the end of social media posts, to make clicking on them easier for mobile respondents. 

Examples of Posts

Hi neighbors! How well is the City serving you? Let your voice be heard! Please complete an important survey here {URL}

The City is stepping up its game, and we need your help! We’re using Polco to hear from more residents. Please complete this survey and then sign up to keep in touch {URL}

Now you can give us feedback on a platform that is civil and quick! Complete our community survey here  {URL}

Examples of images

  • Photo of Your Skyline or Well Known Attraction
  • Your Municipal Seal or Logo
  • Your City/Town/Village Hall
  • Map of Focus Area
  • Street-Level View in Your City

*Don’t use too much text on images. Some social media algorithms limit the reach of posts with images that have text on them. Images with little to no text also tend to perform better overall and usually don’t have issues like words being cut off at the edges.

Printed documents

If you have a newsletter, utility insert or bulletin board, you can catch folks while they aren’t focused on their screens. Think about places where people gather or what printed materials you already mail out.

  • Add a filler sheet or a printed message in utility bills.
  • Hang posters or notices at public buildings such as libraries, service centers and City Hall.
  • Hand out fliers at events, libraries, service centers and City Hall.
  • Add a scrolling message on the municipality’s TV channel.
  • Share posters and fliers with other public agencies, businesses and non-governmental partners that may be willing to spread the word.

Design something eye-catching!

  • Use images if you have space.
  • Use a large-enough font if it is going on a wall.
  • Have a call-out box if it is inserted in a newsletter or bill.
  • Be clear and to the point. 
    • Make the URL prominent, and be sure people know what to do.
    • Go to {URL} to complete the survey.

Example messages

  • Be heard! Go to {URL} to give your input to your City!
  • Join your neighbors providing input to help your City measure performance and plan for success!  Complete the survey here {URL}.

Press releases

Get the news out! Create buzz through a media partner.

  • Let your regional, local and hyper-local news agencies know about the survey.
  • Different media outlets will appeal to different groups, so cast your net as widely as you can.
  • Modify the template below to fit your needs. 

EXAMPLE: General press release


Contact: [insert name]

Telephone: [insert phone]

Email: [insert email]

Date: [insert date]

Headline: [Community name] Officials Plan/Prepare for Upcoming Resident Survey

[Community name, State]: [City/County/other] officials are pleased to announce they will be conducting a comprehensive quality of life survey next month. The survey will be available online and residents will be able to complete the survey by visiting the [City/County/other]’s website at [homepage/URL].

 “We’re very excited to be conducting this survey,” says [full name], [title of official or spokesperson]. “This survey will help [City/County/other] staff and Council identify priorities for the community and improve the quality of life in [community name].”

For the past few weeks, [title of official or spokesperson] [full name] has been working with independent consultant, Polco to develop the survey. The instrument, known as The National Community Survey™, allows the [City/County/other] to compare results and benchmark residents’ opinions against other communities across the country. The survey will include questions about quality of life, important characteristics of community, services provided by [community name] and priorities for the future. The survey will be available online in English and Spanish.

[City/County/other] [Mayor/council member/other] hopes all residents will participate in this survey saying, “[Community name] is a great community and the results will help to create a better [City/County/other]. I encourage everyone living in [community name] to take the survey and help us chart our community’s future.”

Residents with questions about the survey may contact the [City/County/other] by phone at [insert phone], by email at [insert email] or by visiting [insert URL].

About The National Community Survey™ (The NCS™): The NCS was among the first scientific surveys developed to gather resident opinion on a range of community issues, and has been used in more than 350 jurisdictions across 46 states. The NCS is a cost-effective survey of resident opinion and an important benchmarking tool that allows for comparison among communities. Communities using The NCS have reported that the tool improved service delivery, strengthened communications with community stakeholders and helped leaders identify clear priorities for use in strategic planning and budget setting. The NCS is the only resident survey endorsed by the International City/County Management Association and the National League of Cities.

About Polco: (www.polco.us) Polco was developed to quickly deploy and analyze surveys online, providing the agility to gather critical information from community stakeholders throughout the nation. We have created tools for governments, economic development organizations and nonprofits to measure community livability. Respondents to The NCS are asked to join the City’s Polco panel to see the survey results and continue to engage with the city on future research. 

Meetings and other in-person opportunities 

Use public meetings and in-person interactions to tell people how they can complete the survey or engage online through Polco.

Share your blog and FAQ page with all staff who interact with residents and other stakeholders, so they can feel comfortable telling people about this new civic engagement effort and can answer questions or direct residents to the right resources.

  • Make sure those who present to the public or lead workshops, meetings, open houses or town halls know about the tool.
  • Let them know they could supplement their in-person meetings with online engagement.
  • Have them share the {URL} at their meetings to get more residents to sign up.
  • Provide them with fliers to hand out or a link to the blog so they can easily share.
  • Ask them to put  {URL} on the last page of presentations and call it out.

Some potential talking points

The City makes decisions that will influence the character of the community for years or even decades to come and wants to include residents’ voices in the planning process. You can join your neighbors on polco.us/[shorturl], where the City will occasionally/regularly post questions to invite resident input.

The City is currently asking you to complete The National Community Survey, which is essential for tracking the City’s performance over time and making sure resident values are reflected in strategic planning. 

The City will also be posting about this on Facebook and Twitter. Please share those messages with your friends and family, to ensure participation by a wide variety of residents. Be sure your voice is heard. 

Once you have answered the survey, you will be asked to provide your ZIP code and email address. This helps us ensure each person completes the survey once and lets us know which general area of the city respondents live in. Your response will remain anonymous to the City, and your information will be securely stored on Polco. Your email will be used only to give you the opportunity to answer future questions from the City or other public agencies that need your feedback (if you permit them).