What is public engagement?

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It depends on who you ask.

Across different sectors, the term can have very different meanings. Sometimes it can simply mean PR, but usually it's broader and can refer to any activity that increases engagement by and with the public around specific public benefits.

As any charity or CSR operation knows however, even "public benefit" can be extremely broad, so what are some specific examples of public engagement?

  • A charity helping rough sleepers, for example, needs public engagement to ensure the public understands why people are sleeping rough and what work the charity is doing to alleviate the problem.
  • A CSR campaign raising awareness around acess to clean drinking water in West Africa might use public engagement to bring customers face to face with the work the company is doing.
  • Publicly available research, for example published by a university or think tank requires public engagement to make sure members of the public understand the research and know how it affects them.

But the goal with public engagement is that all parties gain something, so public engagement isn't just a question of good communications strategy. It's a different paradigm that entails dialogue and exchange with an active audience and makes use of people's natural curiosity and creativity.