With more and more people demanding to be a part of the process when decisions affect them, social media has become an increasing reality for public engagement professionals. For the December learning webinar, civic engagement specialist Susanna Haas Lyons delivered a clinic on both the digital tools available and the approach needed in using those tools.
Digital engagement is a complement to traditional engagement methods – like face-to-face meetings – but Susanna points out that it can never replace those methods. Just as some people feel “left out” by online engagement, others are left out if it’s a question of physically getting to a location to take part in a process. Digital allows for the net to be cast wider and deeper, and to provide complementary opportunities for giving input.
Susanna breaks the approach for effective digital engagement down to five steps:
- Determine your objectives
- Identify specific participants and build relationships with those communities (ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?”)
- Determine the amount of time, resources and effort you’re prepared to invest
- Select appropriate channels for your engagement and community of practice (research which channels are more likely to attract certain groups)
- Track your progress throughout the project and adjust your approach along the way, as necessary (don’t wait until the late innings to decide that you might need a different approach)
One of the important take-aways is learning to recognize the “Engagement Pyramid”.
Engagement often focuses on the top and bottom-end of this range – either the highly motivated and involved people who own or lead a project, or those who are just learning or have a passing interest. But Susanna notes that there is a large sector in the middle who are interested, make meaningful comments, but tend to have other things on their plate. Reaching those people is just as important, in order to achieve the broadest and deepest process.
IAP2 Canada members may watch the webinar recording and download collateral material here.