By Jeanne Atkinson, Senior Consultant

For two nights in a row last week, I attended community meetings. The first meeting was at my children’s school, to talk about overcrowding issues.  The second meeting was to learn about a major new redevelopment plan for a large parcel of land in my neighborhood.

Now, on the surface, that might not seem like something worth talking about, and I’m certainly not congratulating myself for attending either meeting. I’m simply pointing out that to anyone who juggles work, or kids, or both, and all of our other commitments, we know how chaotic and overwhelming it is to get somewhere by 6:00 p.m. on a work/school night and spend the next two-plus hours in a room full of people with lots to say. There’s homework to be done, teenagers to keep tabs on, dinner to be served, deadlines to meet, clients to call.

So why do we do it? I believe we do it because we know it’s important to be engaged in a world that exists outside of our homes and our offices. Whether you choose to serve on the board of an organization whose work or cause is important to you, or are the type to roll up your sleeves and pick up litter on community clean-up day, public engagement is critical. 

For public relations professionals, this is particularly true. Our success is inextricably tied to how successfully we engage the public. And in order to engage the public, we ourselves must be engaged: What are people talking about? How are they thinking about a particular issue? What words or phrases come up in discussions that seem to resonate with a broader audience? Do you notice any trends in topics or issues?

At the least, life is more interesting when we are active in our communities, our towns and cities, and our world. So, why not get engaged?