It doesn’t matter whether an organization “decides to engage” its public

Posted: September 17th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Civic engagement, online engagment | Tags: | No Comments »

because it’s always been engaged with the public and always will be.

We see this framing a lot: “The organization decided to engage with its public”. Let’s banish it. “Decided to engage” is misleading, because it suggests that engagement is up to the organization.

When it comes to gravity, the earth doesn’t have a veto. Just so, the organization can no more decide not to engage than the earth can “decide” to ignore the sun’s gravitational pull.

The public is always interpreting the organization’s pronouncements and actions, and that interpretation matters as much as or more than those pronouncements and actions themselves.

And the public interprets silence and inaction readily and almost always negatively.

The organization can’t “turn off” the public’s ongoing interpretation, and so it is always engaged.

So by all means urge the organization to decide to recognize that it is already engaged with its public, to examine how well (or not) that engagement is working, and to make it more robust. But let’s skip right past discussions of whether or not to veto gravity.

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