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Public involvement

Two-way dialogue and engagement are essential good practice in communication. Understanding the needs of both consumers and stakeholders  is essential to maximise the effectiveness of communication.

Consumers actively engage with risk issues. Social media provides a new means of interaction and can be used to directly respond to comments and questions of the public. The commitment to go into direct contact with one’s audience requires immediacy and flexibility. Neglecting consumer attempts for deliberation can even result in others taking over the role of the communicator and providing potentially inaccurate information to the public. In order to limit the spread of unreliable information, it will be necessary for food risk stakeholders to actively engage with users online and to correct any fallacies before further amplification or attenuation of a risk can occur.

Public engagement can be viewed as a tick-box exercise or nice-to-do. However really it should be a cultural norm, embedded in the organisational DNA. All too often, the results of public engagement are left to gather dust on a shelf rather than being used to make a difference.

Involve, 2012

Following elements are discussed:

Deliberation between authorities and the public can develop both better informed consumers and authorities. The growth of social media also enables new mechanisms for public involvement.

When people are given the possibility to deliberate with experts, it is useful to know which questions they ask.

VIZZATA allows the exploration of consumer reactions to specific stimulus materials and risk/benefit communications.

The rapid growth of internet use has raised new possibilities and mechanisms for public involvement.

Related Case Studies

FSA social media use during Olympics

How the Food Standards Agency used social media during the Olympic games of 2012 in London.

Consumer response to horse meat contamination

Health risks were not consumers’ first concern over horse meat contamination in the UK and Ireland.