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Beyond the Buzzword: Why Community Engagement Matters

By November 18, 2014August 12th, 2019

Like us, you may be skeptical of buzzwords and weary of spending any more of your time thinking about how these words – “impact measurement”, “effectiveness”, “engagement”, to name just a few – matter in the context of your work. Against your will, you may find your eyes glaze over and ears fill with a faint humming sound when these words are brought up. The problem here is that, at heart, these words do mean something; they can be helpful guideposts that inform decision-making and anchor stations in striving to provide quality public service for their communities. The trick is to develop an understanding of the words that makes them meaningful.

In her webinar “Scaling Community Engagement” (live Tuesday, November 25th at 2 PM EST), former Director of Radio Engagement at the NCME Ann Alquist will help us do that. Ann will present examples of community radio stations that are engaging their communities with the result of making their stations more relevant and sustainable. Peak your interest? Registration for the webinar is still open – sign up!

In preparation for that conversation we wanted to start the work of eliminating that hum in your ears and making those words – “community engagement” – meaningful. So what is “community engagement”, why does it matter, and how does it concern you in community radio? Here are some thoughts:

1. What is community engagement? Defined by the National Center for Media Engagement as “Collaboratively discovering, understanding and addressing community needs and aspirations. Engagement: builds ongoing, two-way relationships; involves listening to people; means working with the community to mutually identify solutions; focuses on learning from the community”.

3. Why is community engagement important for community radio? Engaging with the community leads to discovery, new ideas, and strengthened relationships. If an engagement ethos is developed, stations can effectively play the role of “conveners, connectors, and collaborators” (Charles Meyer). Moreover, community engagement can “bridge the gap by connecting us with people who aren’t currently part of our direct constituency. It that knowledge translates to content, community engagement can be a growth strategy” (Mike Arnold). It helps stations stay relevant, provide quality public service, and attract opportunities. What’s not to like?

4. So how does it actually work, what’s the process? This is going to vary depending on your goals and role, but the basic process is simple: 1. Define, 2. Create, 3. Implement, 4. Sustain. Look at the The Engagement Process for details. For more resources, check out PRND’s tools. 

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