How to prepare for a Dialogue challenge

Using Dialogue for the first time and not sure where to start? Create an engaging challenge that your target audience will want to get involved in by following our top tips.

Choose a meaningful topic

You’ve got a shiny new Dialogue site and you’re keen to get cracking, but don’t be tempted to run a challenge just to have something up on the site. A successful challenge is one in which participants can see that they are being listened to and that they’re helping to shape what happens next, so we recommend that every challenge you set has meaning and genuine political backing behind it.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

Make your challenge specific, direct and relatable. You might want to ask “How should we at Arlen City Council respond to the current climate crisis?” but your audience will relate more to that question if you frame it as “What changes would you like to see in Arlen to help tackle climate change?” People are more likely to get involved if they can clearly see that the challenge is about them and their daily lives. The more people feel passionate about the challenge you've set, the higher the response levels.

Run one challenge at a time

If you’ve got a number of challenges you’re keen to run, it’s wise to stagger them. If people arrive at your site and find multiple possible challenges to participate in, it can put them off participating at all.

Keep it short

A short challenge of 2 to 3 weeks works best, as challenges tend to lose momentum after this point. The simplest way to manage this is to add a challenge and open it up to ideas, comments and ratings for the duration.

We find that a two-stage process works particularly well, in which you accept ideas for the first 1 to 2 weeks then close the challenge to further ideas but still allow people to rate and comment on existing ideas for another week. Managing the challenge in this way helps your users to focus on what they’d like to prioritise, and is especially useful on a busy challenge. 

Decide when you’ll moderate 

  • Post-moderation means that ideas and comments go live immediately and moderation happens afterwards. This creates a lively challenge in which comments and ideas aren’t delayed by admin time. It also builds trust with users, as they can see their input onscreen straightaway — a challenge conversation has more impact if it’s happening in real-time.

  • Pre-moderation prevents any ideas or comments from going live until you’ve checked them. This is useful for more contentious subjects but can potentially make for a more stilted challenge, as new posts are blocked until they’re approved. It requires more dedicated time than post-moderation, so do consider the extra workload involved. 

Get your challenge team in place

If you can, lighten the load by having more than one moderator and assign a rota so that ideas and comments can be quickly approved (particularly important if your challenge is pre-moderated).

Decide on a standard naming convention for your site admins and moderators which represents the organisation, such as AmyArlenCouncil or Amy_ACadmin. Your challenge users will then be able to quickly spot comments from your organisation and know that you’re participating.

Prepare for promo

Successful challenges rely on effective promotion. Make sure your comms team is primed and ready to create a buzz around your challenge.

Get ready to join the conversation

A challenge works really well when it’s a two-way conversation between an organisation and the public. Getting involved in the conversation shows that you’re listening, which helps to spur on further engagement. Find an admin user (or users) who can take on this role, and read our article on how to get involved in a challenge conversation for tips.