Many of our clients have done previous strategic planning or evaluation projects, and are familiar with external consultants. Their previous experience sometimes lead them to expect to be somewhat removed from the project, with the consultant completing tasks independently. At the Improve Group, we tend to take a more developmental role to strategic planning and evaluation -- forming a "learning community" partnership with our clients. We also encourage our clients to engage others - program participants or students, elected officials, people with common interests, etc. -- in their process. For some organizations, a somewhat formal public relations process can be helpful. For example, in our work with Austin (MN) public schools, we engaged students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members to establish a vision and set goals for their community. The district supported this process through press releases and frequent communication. A recent article in the Rochester Post-Bulletin describing the results so far of the effort is one example; previous articles invited people to complete a survey and participate in community meetings. The result was a participation rate higher than we've seen in comparable projects. Doing a google search for "strategic planning press release" or "evaluation press release" turns up mostly the findings or results of a project. What has made our work with Austin so unique is that they engaged their local media throughout the process. Their goals in doing so were to: (1) Increase participation in the strategic planning process (2) Ensure that everyone who chose to do so had an opportunity to learn about the process (3) Keep people informed as the process evolves (4) Ensure that no one is surprised with the results because there have been summaries at multiple stages The press may not always be a good tool. In Austin, the District had a good sense about what sources of information people used and how to access each of them. They included web- and radio-announcements in their strategy. In some communities we work with, there is uncertainty about which media outlets people access the most, or media are so saturated that it is cost-prohibitive to reach more than a small fraction of the population. In those cases, it is important to be targeted with your approach, using media outlets to access populations that would otherwise not participate.