Community Outreach with Polco: How to Craft Good Messaging

Reaching out to your community is essential, and we have some tips on how to craft messages through email, social media, press releases and more to get your residents responding to you on Polco.

Community Outreach

Get your Polco questions into the hands of your community! Use the six main communications channels:  

  • Website (pages, blog posts and FAQs)
  • Email
  • Social media posts
  • Printed documents 
  • Press releases
  • Meetings and other in-person opportunities

Use as many of these channels as possible and as make sense. In addition, partner with as many city departments, public agencies and non-governmental organizations as you can so you can reach a broad audience.


For examples and tips on how to use social media for community outreach, click here.


General tips on messagingthese 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 other resources, such as your Polco short URL, your FAQ page, the Polco privacy policy or a blog post that explains why the city is using Polco.

The next sections include more information on how to best use each channel, as well as templates you can modify to suit your audience.


This is your homebase for information, an outreach channel and a resource for both staff and residents.

  • Create a blog article explaining why the City chose Polco and what you want to achieve with it, and link it to your Polco post to keep other messages short. 
    • Why is it valuable?
    • How will feedback be used?
    • How is data protected?
    • How do you access Polco?
    • Create a FAQ page. 
      • Another informational area where you can spell out details.
      • If the same question is repeated, add it to your FAQ.
      • Link to this page to keep other messages short.
    • Create a blog about a set of Polco questions.
    • Post links to Polco questions on your homepage and the pages of related departments.


    Example blog: 

    The City of XYZ is excited to partner with Polco to provide a platform for resident engagement. We believe the Polco platform will be valuable for several reasons:

    • It provides a fast way for residents to learn about specific issues and give their input.
    • It 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.
    • It keeps individual opinions anonymous, while allowing City staff to see broad demographic and geographic breakdowns.


    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. 


    Getting input from a wide array of residents will help us ensure that we understand the values of our community members. And 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. 


    Sign up at[shorturl] to join the conversation.


    Starter list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    • What does Polco do with my personal information (name, email and ZIP code)? Why am I asked for it? Why do I have to create an account?
        • Polco uses your ZIP code - and, after continued use, your name - to verify your residency against publicly available voter information in your state. 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.
    • I’m a registered voter. Why am I not verified?
        • Sometimes Polco isn’t able to match personal information against the voter file. This is generally because of a recent change of address (the public file updates quarterly) or spelling inconsistencies (for example, Mike versus Michael). If you think you should be on the voter list and are not matched, contact us at
    • 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 Polco page post and even embed Polco questions 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 posted a question about [topic] on Polco that you can answer here:[shorturl]. It will take only a few 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 question, you will be asked to provide your ZIP code 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. 

    In addition, we hope you will choose to provide an email address to Polco, so we can contact you with new questions. Your email will be used only to let you know about questions from public agencies that need your feedback.

    You can learn more about Polco here [link to Blog] and see their Privacy Policy here.

    Thank you for your time! 



    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[shorturl] to join.

    Example messages

    Be heard! Go to[shorturl] to give your input on [topic].

    Join your neighbors on[shorturl] to provide input on City planning. More information at [short link to city blog].


    Press releases

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

    • Let your regional, local and hyper-local news agencies know you are taking this important step.
    • 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. 

    General press release



    City of ABC, [ST], [Date] – The City of ABC is excited to announce the launch of Polco (, an innovative online engagement platform that lets residents provide direct input to the local government decision-making process. By using Polco, the [municipality type] is making public participation easier for residents. Officials will post questions directly to residents on Polco’s app and website, where residents answer and comment on the questions.

    The City of ABC will soon be asking residents for their input on [first topic]. Specifically, the City  wants to know what residents think about [specific question]. 

    [Quote from City official about how Polco is a good tool to use for the project.]

    The City will be asking for further input on [other projects that the municipality will be asking for input on] on Polco in the coming weeks and months.

    To participate, residents should go to[shorturl]. They can respond online or download the Polco app for Android or iOS. Once they have answered the question, residents will be asked to provide their ZIP code to confirm where they live. This allows the City to be sure they are hearing from each person only once and to see which general area of the city respondents live in. Responses will remain anonymous, and personal information will be securely stored on Polco. 

    Residents can choose to provide an email address to Polco, which will allow the City to easily contact them with future questions. This service is free to all residents. Polco is committed to a strict privacy policy—they only share anonymous, combined results. Participants’ individual data and votes are never shared. [Insert a customer quote or news about partnering with another company, if appropriate.]

    For more information, contact the City at the contact information above.



    Meetings and other in-person opportunities 

    Use public meetings and in-person interactions to tell people how they can 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 directing 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[shorturl] 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[shorturl] 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[shorturl], where the City will occasionally/regularly post questions to invite resident input.

    The topic(s) that the City is currently asking about [is/are] [current topics].

    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 question, you will be asked to provide your ZIP code to confirm where you live. This lets us be sure we are hearing from each person only 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. 

    We hope you will choose to provide an email address to Polco, so we can contact you occasionally with new questions. Your email will be used only for questions from public agencies that need your feedback.