Step 4: Work out how they should be engaged

Refer back to your aims to make sure you use methods that will give you the type of information you are looking for as well as those which are appropriate to the participants…

Why do this

  • All public engagement methods have strengths and weaknesses. Some are more statistically representative than others, some get a more ‘in depth’ response, some are best if you want a quick response
  • Research has shown that different people prefer different public engagement methods. The more methods and information are tailored to who you want to engage, the better the response
  • Different methods fulfill different aims, e.g. a survey or questionnaire may not reveal the reasons why the public think in a certain way, or it might not allow them opportunities to offer solutions to problems
  • Finding the appropriate way to engage will have a huge impact on the quality, as well as the results, of the public engagement activity
  • Thinking about the different needs of the people you wish to engage with, what barriers there might be to them becoming involved and how using different methods remove those barriers, will make sure that some people aren't left out
  • If you are asking about satisfaction with your service, doing this as soon as possible after the service has been delivered, e.g. do a follow up phone call or survey not more than a few days later, will ensure a good response
  • Offering the public a choice of a range of ways to get involved and respond - e.g. on-line as well as by post - will make sure that a larger number of people will want to take part and that the results are comprehensive
  • You need to ‘custom build’ a public engagement solution for each service, policy decision or issue
  • The use of the Mosaic Toolkit will inform you of the best channels of communication to use with your target sample.  Put all engagement activity on the Essex Insight website.


  • Do the aims of the public engagement activity require qualitative or quantitative results or a mix?
  • What depth of public involvement does it require?
  • How will I address data quality issues?
  • How many responses are needed to make the results reliable?
  • How will the results be analysed?
  • Will my organisation carry out the work, what resources can I call on to deal with the whole process - especially analysis of the results - or should I contract the work out?
  • How can I remove barriers and ensure inclusion?
  • Most people don't have much time and some need encouragement to take part so how do people like to be engaged? For example:

    • The most popular methods generally are ‘having the information sent to them’ and ‘postal surveys’ (i.e.) home based public engagement
    • There is much less support for public meetings or anything that involves leaving home
    • People on higher incomes are more likely to favour being on panels or in focus groups
    • People on lower incomes are generally less keen on getting involved and feel ‘information poor’. They may need incentives or more innovative methods.
    • Young people and commuters tend to like the internet, focus groups and street interviews on the spot
    • Older people often like local settings for social reasons

Tool 4: What Methods to Use & When

Tool 5: Surveys & Sampling

Tool 6: Putting together a Questionnaire


  • Try to offer the public a choice of ways to get involved
  • Think about different group preferences in terms of using different methods
  • Offer the public a mix of ways to respond
  • Some groups of people, such as children, young people and vulnerable adults, require particular care and protection as well as innovative methods
  • Some groups require alternative means of communication - sign language, interpretation/translation, other formats


Tool 7: Engaging Children & Young People


  • The method of engagement is suitable for the aims, topic and participants involved
  • More people will feel like taking part
  • The more tailored the methods, the more relevant the responses
  • More people will feel they have the opportunity to be involved in decision-making
  • The public will gain confidence
  • They will enjoy it and come back for more