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Public Engagement: Let’s Raise the Bar

Professional communicators from across the country are gathered in Kelowna this week for the Canadian Public Relations Society’s National Conference to learn from each other and to explore the future of PR as a profession.

I was delighted to be invited to participate in a plenary panel on public engagement to share my lessons learned, best practices, and where I believe this important work is heading.

The trend is clear: people demand to be more involved in the decisions that will impact them, and we’re also contending with all-time low levels of trust in government and business. If engagement is a must-do, how can we embrace it and maximize the benefit for both participants and decision makers?

The way forward is to engage more people and to generate richer, more actionable insights that are reflective of the interests of broader and more diverse communities.

Here’s how:

  1. It’s all about the participant.

    Engagement processes need to be designed to serve the needs and interests of the participants. Communications efforts to invite people to participate need to be clear, compelling and deployed in a lot of ways to reach a lot of people.

  1. One size doesn’t fit all.

    Create multiple participation opportunities, allowing people to learn and contribute at the level of their interest and understanding. And create smart content to generate more informed input.

  1. Bring the conversations to where the people are.

    Think about where your audiences gather or spend time, in person and online, and go there. Don’t assume that only the people who show up at a meeting care about an issue. You should be seeking lots of input and a diversity of perspectives.

The result will be more robust engagement that generates high awareness, participation and satisfied participants. And most importantly, great insights to help you make better decisions.

Let’s raise the bar for public engagement, together.