These are lessons learned in collaboration with over 300 clients and more than 4000 online engagement projects in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, using the EngagementHQ platform to reach out to the community and engage them at different levels.

I’m going to publish these one lesson at a time to make them bite-sizedThis is the second post in the series.

Matthew Crozier, CEO

It would be really disappointing if people took our online engagement platform EngagementHQ and used it to replace engaging people face-to-face. The opportunity provided by online engagement is to broaden and strengthen citizen engagement not to replace one audience with another. 

Online engagement will reach lots of people that face-to-face events will not, which include busy parents, people working when face-to-face events are held, people with mobility issues, and importantly, those people simply not passionate enough to attend an event but who might just check out your site online.

There are tangible benefits in broadening your audience and reaching out beyond the usual suspects, outside of those people that are passionately engaged and understanding what those in the middle without a defined position think.

But there are also people who you will not reach with online engagement. These groups cannot neatly be put into demographic categories, they are just people who choose not to engage online or do not have easy access to the internet.  Sure this group is shrinking all the time but their voice remains important.

And let’s face it, there is no substitute for face-to-face engagement. I’ve seen some pretty cool online engagement processes, but none is better than sitting down with somebody and having a face-to-face dialogue. Nothing replaces being able to read body language and to really connect with an individual on a personal level, and I for one hope nothing ever will.

Many of our clients use their online engagement efforts to augment their face-to-face engagement processes. Letting people know about face-to-face engagement opportunities, starting the discussion before a meeting to help set the agenda or to allow people an opportunity to express their anxiety about an issue, and continuing the discussion after a meeting are all great ways of using your online presence to amplify the effectiveness of your face-to-face engagement efforts.

I’ve chosen Victoria’s Education State Project to showcase how they used their main discussion forum space to highlight opportunities to get involved face-to-face.

Note the list of events which is prominent on the right-hand side of the page as well as the calls to action to either register for an event or even to host your own event. Their face-to-face and online engagement programs are integrated and complement one another, which maximizes their reach and highlights the different ways the community can engage with the project team.

How are you engaging on- and offline?

Read Lesson #1: Use An Online Engagement Platform To Build Your Community

And continue with…

Lesson #3: Think Beyond a 6 Week Campaign and be There When People Need You

Lesson #4: Don’t Be Shy When Engaging The Community