Plugging Into the Community

“You can’t get what you don’t ask for.” – A Real Life Proverb

My 2-year-old keeps trying to plug in everything he finds to our electric outlets. Every Mr. Potato Head part from eyes to arms to nose has been thoroughly tested in every wall outlet our home has to offer. Fortunately, we have safety appliances blocking his way. Someday, soon enough, he will find a way around those safeguards and be able to … get current. Let’s hope his first exposure is a positive one.

Attempting to connect to a community without “knowing” the community will give you similar results as my ‘Little Spark’ is experiencing right now. You may not be able to connect at all and it will be for the same reason. Little guy doesn’t yet understand the electrical system. Likewise, you probably don’t fully understand the community system.

Just because you don’t understand electricity, doesn’t mean you have to sit around in the dark all day. There are people that understand electrical connections and there are people who understand community connections, too. It’s a powerful metaphor to help you as you begin to learn to plug in! The good news is, like most business functions, ‘plugging in’ is trainable for any community.

Here are four powerful ‘Plug-In’ ideas:

1.    Create your own list of community connections unique to your market area.Each community has an ever-evolving dynamic list of outlets. There are sustainable outlets, flash in the pan outlets, emerging outlets, low wattage outlets and even diminishing outlets to avoid. Review the list with your staff and business coaches on a monthly basis, get help from local sales reps who call on your business and keep the process of looking for outlets as an important monthly business function.

2. Have, or create, a good reason to Community currents go two ways and so does the community’s give and take system. Look for ways to understand the outlets on your list. When do they meet? Who is in charge this year? And most importantly, what do you have that they might need? Can you provide expert advice to their group, offer free safety training, donate an item or give a cash donation to show good will? If you can, then you will earn the right to plug in to that outlet.

3.   Watch the pros do it.Successful politicians, community leaders, and even news media outlets have to learn to plug in or they disappear. These three sources are easy to track because they do all their work in public. Remember, you will notice wonderful examples to emulate and horrific warnings of things to avoid. Use your good judgment while watching and take your time evaluating new ideas.

4. Map out your community, but bring a compass too! I’m a fan for mapping out your community on a white All named communities have physical borders. Most are straightforward with landmarks, regions and street addresses for the brick and mortars. But those borders and ‘plug-in outlets’ blur when you map out the social, political and commercial market boundaries. So for those, a map may not help you at all. You may need a compass and a professional ‘Plug-In Guide’.

Sparky Nolan is a Chamber Executive, a Community Builder and a Public Relations Specialist. For expert advice on how to plug in to your community, Sparky can be reached via text at 832-633-6332 or e-mail at

Remember: You can’t get what you don’t ask for. So ask today!