Outreach vs. Engagement

Being in Day 3 of this fabulously energizing week, I have had little time to blog. I did, however, want to share an observation I have noted perhaps every single hour of this week:

There is a huge difference between “outreach / marketing” and “engagement.” And given the choice between them, I’ll take engagement any day.

Outreach and marketing rely on what we have come to call the “Tell and Hope” method of communications: I tell you my story, and I hope you will do what I want you to do.

Engagement, however, means just what it means in real life.

If I told you I was engaged to be married, would you picture my beloved sitting next to me with a brochure of all his great qualities pasted to his forehead? Would you picture him spending all our time together prattling on and on about how amazing he is, in an ongoing nonstop effort to convince me to do what he wants me to do? (And if you do picture that, are you also picturing how soon the divorce will follow?)

Or would you instead envision that we have together realized we care about the same things and care about each other? Would you picture us excitedly talking about all the things we want to do together, our plans for our future together, our intentions to spend our lives supporting each other in good times and bad, as we pursue together the things we both dream about?

That’s what engagement is all about. Whether you are meeting people on Twitter or Facebook, at a blog or in real life, none of us wants to spend time with a walking brochure. None of us likes to be with someone who is always trying to convince us to do what they want us to do.

But if you engage me as a person who cares passionately about my community and my world, I will do whatever I can, both for you and with you. Because I care.

Just about every hour of this week has reminded me and reinforced for me the power of that engagement. That is because so many of the people who are making this launch-week possible are people I have met in my virtual life – some of whom I have never met in person! I have known some of these wonderful people since way back in the hey-day of listservs. I met others more recently, through Facebook and Twitter.

None of these amazing people are helping with this launch because I handed them a brochure about the book or told them my story. In each case, they are helping because we engaged each other in what we both care about.

And now, through the launch, not just of The Pollyanna Principles but of this whole movement for changing this sector’s work – we are about to begin to kick butt. Together.

10 Responses to Outreach vs. Engagement

  1. I sometimes think of outreach/marketing as something we do TO people while engagement is something we do WITH them. Engagement to me implies synergy and passion, not an intellectual evaluation of value. That’s my two cents for today.

  2. This is one of the most succinct, clear messages I have read on marketing. I am the “Marketing” Coordinator with a county mental health agency working to assist people with intellectual disabilities find employment. When I think about my efforts with local businesses, my greatest success has come through continuing relationships and engagement. Maybe I need to change my title to Engagement Coordinator!

  3. LOL!
    Can I get back to you after the launch this week? Perhaps a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g “engagement”?

  4. Ron:
    Wow – thank you for the kind words about the post! Re: your thoughts on your title, we have been seeing a lot of agencies start using the term “Community Engagement Officer,” but most of them are just tacking a new title on the same old stuff. Seems like you are actually DOING the real work of engagement, which is so much more what counts!

    If you’re not already using it, you may find our Community Engagement Action Kit to be a useful tool – step-by-step creation of a Community Engagement Plan. That’s here if it’s helpful: http://is.gd/o25z

    As you focus even more deeply on the “engagement” vs. the “marketing” part of your job, I hope you’ll keep us posted!

  5. I’m not sure how outreach and marketing became married. Outreach is merely extending or reaching out beyond your usual limits. You can choose to engage a community or market to one from there, depending on what your goal is. Many modern marketing theories rely on engagement and synergy for success–whether you are trying to make disabled kids happy with arts and crafts, convert them to your religion or sell them a vacuum cleaner, engagement is clearly a more successful option than Tell and Hope. This is nothing new, but the redefining outreach to either be demeaning or linked with marketing seems to be strange new trend..