KLA Perspectives

How a Game, Surveys + Virtual Reality Can Support Your Resilience + Preparedness Outreach

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Aug 6, 2018 9:30:00 AM

3 Unique Ways to Get Your Stakeholders + Community Involved in Emergency Preparedness and Climate Resilience

We’re in the middle of hurricane and wildfire seasons with other parts of the country battling heat waves and others recovering from flooding. And we’re weeks away from National Emergency Preparedness Month (September). Is your community ready if your number is up?

There are plenty of ways to engage community members and key stakeholders in your emergency preparedness and climate resilience planning.  We're taking a look at 3 -- a game, a survey tool and virtual reality -- that we think are the most fun and effective. 

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, resilience, cities, preparedness

Kick Start Branding for Your Next City Initiative with These 20 Questions

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Mar 27, 2018 10:30:15 PM

You’re embarking on a new city-wide planning process or developing a long-range sustainability, resilience, climate action plan or similar. Chances are you want to go beyond “Our City's Sustainability Plan” if you want to effectively grab the public’s attention.

At this same time, local governments don’t often have the luxury -- in time or dollars -- of a robust branding exercise for every new program, initiative or planning process.  

That’s why I asked Robin Samora to join me for our latest episode of the SAS Talk with Kim podcast. Robin is a friend who has worked with KLA on our branding and marketing strategies and who shared lots of great insight and tips that local governments can use to manage a smaller-scale, internal branding process.


One of the themes in my chat with Robin was the tendency -- not just at the local government level but across the board --  for our messages to convey the *what* of a particular service or initiative, instead of the WHY. Why does this particular initiative or program exist? Why is it important to people in your community? What’s the value proposition? Robin echoes the sentiments of branding experts the world over: branding is how you (your product, your service) make people feel. That’s why you need to get beyond calling it just a “Sustainability Plan” -- which is the what, not the why.

Part of that "why" value proposition is often a call-to-action (or "CTA"), particularly for cities who need their citizens to come to an event, give feedback on a proposed plan, make a lifestyle change, etc. That makes the delivery of your brand -- from the right spokespeople and “brand ambassadors” to targeted messaging and tactics -- critical.

Finally, you want to make sure to do due diligence in terms of institutional memory. Know your city’s branding (and any expectations of alignment with it), what market research already exists, what similar initiatives or programs have been promoted in recent years as well as what has worked and what hasn’t worked. That helps establish what messaging and tactics you might want to tap or, conversely, avoid.

In addition to KLA’s experience with Robin and other consultants in our own branding journey last year, we’ve worked with several clients to develop branding -- and attendant marketing collateral -- for their sustainability planning initiatives. (See some examples below.)

As a result, we’ve compiled a list of 20 questions to ask -- along with a few tips -- during the branding phase of your initiative.


  1. Will you be developing a separate graphic identity (i.e. logo, set of icons) for the initiative or program? Tip: If you don’t have internal design resources, consider a relatively cheap option like Logo Tournament.

  2. Will you need both a name and a tagline (i.e. mantra, motto, strap line) for the initiative or program?

  3. What is your city’s “brand personality”?  

  4. Are there particular features or characteristics for which your city is already known -- i.e. historical figures or events, sports team, cultural, universities, personalities (grit, innovative, etc)?

  5. Does your city have a style guide or branding outline you need to follow (things like logo, typography, color, photography usage)?

  6. What efforts similar to a sustainability/resilience/climate plan has the City done in the last decade?

  7. What were they called?

  8. Are they still visible or in people’s memories?

  9. Was the overall reception positive or negative?

  10. What market research has been done in your community? Tip: Start with your Economic Development Department, Chamber of Commerce or your Convention and Visitors Bureau (or equivalent).

  11. What kind of research and testing, if any, have been done around messaging and concepts like "sustainability" "resilience" "climate action" and "livability"?

  12. What kind of message testing will you be able to do in advance of your initiative or program launch? Tip: You can pull together a simple focus group, online survey or social media contest to elicit feedback. Also, think about tapping a local high school or university class to support your research.

  13. What are some key words or phrases associated with your initiative or program? Tip: Do a "word storming" session (which you can do in person, over the phone or via a shared doc online) where key staff and stakeholders share words and themes -- be sure to include "words to avoid." 

  14. What groups and individuals are considered leaders (or “influencers”) in your community?

  15. Do you have relationships with those people or ways to reach out to them? 

  16. What target audiences (i.e. moms, lower income, seniors) will you be trying to reach?

  17. What is the core value proposition to them? Tip: Consult with groups and individuals who serve these communities to ensure your messages will resonate. Get concrete examples of the language your audience uses and primary issues impacting them. 

  18. What are the best ways to reach these audiences -- and the barriers? Tip: Ask your community partners where these audiences can be found (in the physical community and online).
  19. What do most people in your community already know about the initiative, program or topic and what misperceptions might there be?

  20. Will you need to include translations for non-English speakers? 

That's just a starting point, but if you take the time -- with the right people involved -- to answer these questions honestly and thoroughly you will be leaps and bounds closer to a final brand.  The KLA team (in our KLA capacity and with previous clients/jobs) has worked with numerous local governments and community organizations to answer these questions, develop a brand and/or create basic guidance to pass off to designers, and ensure brand consistency across all outreach channels and collateral. Some examples of that work are below. It's a good reminder of the hard work, stories and meaning behind every brand you see. 

 Be sure to listen to our chat with Robin to get more insight. 




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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, branding

New Podcast: The Power of Participatory Budgeting

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Mar 19, 2018 10:42:32 AM

At a time when the integrity of many democratic institutions -- from voting rights to the free press -- is under attack, Participatory Budgeting (PB) is emerging as an effective, inclusive tool for local governments to forge, maintain or mend meaningful, engaging relationships with their citizens.

Jennifer Godzeno, Deputy Director at the Participatory Budgeting Project, joined us for an episode of our SAS Talk with Kim podcast series to talk about the basics of PB.

Listen to Our Participatory Budgeting Podcast.

PB is an open, democratic process through which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. For cities, counties and local government departments, that often translates into funding for bike lanes, community gardens, transit upgrades (like bus station shelters or benches), playground equipment, street lights, composting facilities, community gardens (pictured here funded by PB in Vallejo, CA), murals, crosswalks and other street and sidewalk safety features, and playground and pool equipment. 

Started in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 and introduced in the US in Chicago two decades later, PB is gaining steam because of the myriad of challenges it addresses and benefits it offers communities large and small, including:


  • Building community leaders
  • Creating a bottom-up conversation that illuminates a community’s needs and makes local leaders more responsive
  • Expanding civic engagement
  • Enhancing how  informed the public is
  • Fostering effective and fair leadership

How does it accomplish all of that? The Participatory Budgeting Project breaks the process down into fives stages:

  1. Design: A steering committee, representative of the community, creates the rules in partnership with government officials to ensure the process is inclusive and meets local needs.
  2. Brainstorm: Through meetings and online tools, residents share and discuss ideas for projects.
  3. Develop: Volunteers, usually called budget delegates, develop the ideas into feasible proposals, which are then vetted by agency staff.
  4. Vote: Residents vote to determine how the available budget will be spent to fund proposals. It’s a direct, democratic voice in their community’s future.
  5. Fund:  Winning projects are implemented, such as laptops in schools, Wi-Fi in public parks, or traffic safety improvements. The government and residents track and monitor implementation.

If you're ready to take the next step and learn more about how Participatory Budgeting could work for you, start with our podcast. Then you can download the Participatory Budgeting Project’s PB Scoping toolkit (there is also one specific to schools). 

Listen to Our Participatory Budgeting Podcast.

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, participatory budgeting

8 Lessons Washington, DC Learned about Community Engagement in 2017

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jan 24, 2018 9:57:34 AM

In 2017 KLA brought you 20 episodes of our SAS Talk with Kim podcast on topics ranging from the circular economy to smart cities. We’re underway with recording new podcasts for 2018, but we’ll also be checking back in with our previous guests to see what has transpired since our chat and what new insights they have to share with you.

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Topics: sustainability, podcast, community engagement, climate action, local leadership, SAS Talk Podcast, DC, cities

Client News: Encinitas in Climate Action

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jan 22, 2018 11:40:29 AM

We love it when a city pledges to “go green.” We love it even more when cities back up those words with meaningful goals and plans to reach those goals. And, well, our hearts just flutter when those cities complement that plan with our Community Dashboard and a strategy for truly engaging the community in reaching those goals together.

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, dashboard, climate action, local leadership, cities, Encinitas, California

How to Give Everyone a Voice at Community Events: Part 2

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jul 23, 2017 10:41:22 PM

This is Part 2 of 2 based on my recent SAS Talk with Kim podcast with Emie Michaud Weinstock of Reveled Up, a branding and event marketing boutique. A good chunk of our discussion focused on the importance of the speakers and/or facilitators, which is what dive into here. In Part 1 we go through the content and design of the events. And we've compiled a Top 10 Best Practices list. 

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, SAS Talk Podcast

10 Best Practices: Giving Everyone a Voice at Community Events

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jul 12, 2017 10:34:21 AM

Community engagement is a critical part of our sustainability work and the linchpin for setting and meeting long-term goals. KLA teamed up with Emie Michaud Weinstock of Reveled Up, a branding and event marketing boutique, for a recent SAS Talk with Kim podcast. She shared so much useful information about how to design an event that engages everyone in your community that we have two companion blog posts: Part 1 focuses on event content and design; Part 2 on speakers and facilitators.

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Topics: community engagement, local government, SAS Talk Podcast

How to Give Everyone a Voice at Your Community Events: Part 1

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jul 12, 2017 10:26:09 AM

Part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2 focuses on speakers and facilitators.

Listen Now!

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Topics: community engagement, SAS Talk Podcast

The Circular Economy: Phoenix Reverses Course on Waste

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jun 15, 2017 3:32:42 PM

Podcast with John Trujillo on Their Outside-the-Box Approach

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, SAS Talk Podcast

Trees: They Do a City (and Body) Good (New Podcast!)

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jun 1, 2017 9:19:00 PM

UPDATE 2018 (Originally posted June 2017): Congratulations to the team we interviewed for this podcast. They received an American Planning Association Achievement Award at the National Planning Conference for their work on this project. 



Have you ever been called (or called someone else) a “treehugger”? I personally wear that moniker as a badge of honor. For decades that has been a catchall term for anyone who supports protecting wild forests, clean air and water, open spaces, sustainable places, and so on. But aside from the “hugging” part about loving and caring, the one word in our language that has come to symbolize sustainability and environmental protection is “trees.”

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Topics: community engagement, public health