Building Community Support


The Main Street Approach is only as effective as it is a reflection of the community’s vision of the downtown. At the foundation of every successful Main Street program is the  engagement of stakeholders to gain their understanding, appreciation, and participation. Communicating the value of the local program is key to building and retaining community support.

Five Main Audiences

Although their compositions vary across the state, all Main Streets share five primary audiences — owners, donors, volunteers, the public, and government.


The owners are so very important to our districts. They are the building owners, the business owners, the property owners, developers, and prospects. They are the ones who are putting their blood, sweat, and tears into the district. They have the highest level of risk involved of any audience. The best way to think of it, the owners are putting on a major event each and every day, and are doing it on their dime.

Owners need to know that the Main Street program is working to help ensure their prosperity, and need a voice in the decisions that impact livelihood.


Donors help Main Streets to exist. But we don’t want it to be charity, we want it to be earned.
Businesses that invest in an organization should know that they are gaining exposure, leaving a legacy, and supporting the place they call home. We want to be the organization known for getting things done, and a movement worth investing in.


Volunteers are the lifeblood of Main Street. Like business owners, volunteers wear a lot of hats, and we want their time to be well-spent. Because we value their time, they value service to improving the local community. 

Volunteers want to be a part of an organization known for getting things done, and a movement worth investing the precious commodity that is time.


The public are our customers, our event goers, our guests. They are the ones who make the market viable, supporting small business. At Main Street, we help people fall in love with our community. Residents and visitors want to feel special and know that they are creating memories.


Our elected officials and municipal staff are some of our greatest partners. Main Street presents the engaging opportunity to be involved in the future of the community in a nonpolitical fashion, while communicating to the constituents and making them love their place. 

Both local and state officials need to hear that Main Street means jobs, an increase in tax base, private sector investment, and small business support. Main Street offers it all.

Tools for Communicating your Messaging

Direct Marketing 

Direct marketing is distributed directly to the intended audience. Traditionally, this was direct mailings and newsletters. Now, a website is a passive means of communication, and social media (such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest) and videos are the most common — and inexpensive — way to directly communicate your message. These tools provide you with control over the message and how it is delivered.

Traditional Advertising 

Traditional advertising, such as in newspapers and on the radio, can be equally as effective, though not always as trusted, as direct marketing; because ads are paid for, they can be costly and be viewed as biased. 

Media Relations 

For media relations to be effective, it is important to use the tools appropriately; otherwise, they can be ignored, or worse, used to harm the image of the program. 

It is important to establish good relations with your local media outlets. Ask who is the best contact for stories about Main Street and for calendar items, as well as how they prefer to receive stories and best timing. Maintain a list of contacts. Be sure to send thank yous when you receive positive coverage.

Once you have the right contacts, send media alerts to provide information on events, and ask the media to attend. Media alerts are often formatted as a “who, what, where, when” and include any notable interview opportunities that may be available. 

Send a press release. These stories should be unique and newsworthy ­— perhaps your entertainment lineup includes a recently signed band with roots in your community, or a volunteer celebrating 20 years of service at an event. Remember to format it in a way that is easy for them to use in their news outlet. 

Some communities have found success by participating in regular radio or TV interviews with local news stations. This can become a standing opportunity to provide information on what is going on downtown and with your program in your own words. A similar format can be used in print media with standing editorials or “from the desk of the Main Street Executive Director.” This allows you to have more freedom and include things like investment/reinvestment statistics, calls to action, and notable information that is not typically framed as newsworthy.

When the media does arrive in your office or at an event, being prepared with a press or media kit will allow you to communicate information beyond just the interview and ensure that the information provided is as accurate as possible. A media kit often includes recent press releases or media alerts about the program or, when possible, about the event being covered that day. It could include information on staff and board members with title, contact information, and bios. Kits could include a calendar of events, history of the program, photographs, or anything else that may give the reporter a clearer picture and context to the interview that has been given.


Was this content helpful?