Public Outreach and Engagement Team (POET)

POET is a multi-disciplinary group with expertise in planning, public policy, marketing, communication and public engagement techniques. POET offers a full range of outreach and engagement services, from concept and advisory to full implementation of outreach and engagement events. Our team specializes in innovative outreach methods tailored to the specific demographic and community profile of the target population.

Program Services

Group of women on bench

Public Engagement and Outreach

  • Public engagement plan development
  • Open house, workshop and conference execution
  • Mobile outreach development and deployment
  • Training and educational activities for children and teens
Smiling African American guy sitting in public transportation an

Marketing and Communications

  • Project-related marketing and recruitment strategy development
  • Public relations, earned media and social media marketing
  • Website, newsletter and electronic communication and material production
  • Multi-media production, including short videos, podcasts and web features
Group of engineers with blueprints standing on construction site.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Development, management and recruitment for working groups, task forces and
    advisory committees
  • Expert facilitation for meetings, workshops, or focus groups

POET Staff

Miriam Salerno

Miriam Salerno

Managing Director, Public Outreach and Engagement Team (POET)

Andrea Lubin

Andrea Lubin

Senior Researcher

Cate Heady

Cate Heady

Research Project Coordinator


Excellence Award for Outstanding Community Engagement

American Planning Association


Silver Award for Innovative Outreach

American Planning Association


John and Jane Q Public Award for Innovative Outreach

Transportation Research Board


Project Highlights

Resilient NJ – Atlantic County Coastal Region 

POET led engagement to vulnerable populations groups for the Resilient NJ – Atlantic County Coastal Region Resiliency Action PlanThis engagement work included the planning and execution of virtual “Community Conversations” co-hosted with nonprofit and community-based organizations to discuss the needs, priorities and vision of these traditionally underrepresented groups in the regional.   The team also conducted a second round of “Community Conversations” in 2022 to present resiliency scenarios to these populations and collect feedback on potential actions and strategies to undertakeIn addition, POET provided facilitation support and translation at open houses and virtual public workshops. 

Innovations in Public Engagement, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority  

POET worked with North Jersey’s metropolitan planning organization to deploy creative approaches to public involvement. Tasks included assisting with the implementation of the Outreach Liaisons Pilot Program, a project that recruits and utilizes community members of underrepresented areas to increase engagement with NJTPA, and the implementation of UpNext North Jersey, and innovative young adult advisory group that bridges the connection between the NJTPA and young adults in the NJTPA region. 

NCHRP 08-142: Virtual Public Involvement: A Manual for Effective, Equitable, and Efficient Practices for Transportation Agencies

POET worked to research and develop a manual for state departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), rural planning organizations (RPOs), and other transportation agencies who can benefit from the development of structured, research-based guidance on how to choose and employ virtual public involvement (VPI) tools effectively, efficiently, and perhaps most importantly—equitably. The research team conducted a blend of desktop research with quantitative and qualitative research tasks, including surveys, interviews, user experience testing and focus groups designed to identify best practices for VPI in varied planning and project development contexts. 

DESTINATION 2040: Middlesex County Master Plan Public and Stakeholder Engagement

POET is providing Middlesex County with overall public involvement and stakeholder engagement support for DESTINATION 2040, Master Plan update for the county.  POET developed a public involvement plan which includes deployment of a variety of engagement strategies such as face to face, meeting in a box, and online engagement.  Through this partnership, Middlesex County is committed to extensive outreach to obtain feedback from those who live and work in Middlesex County to inform priorities for the Master Plan. POET is also providing technical assistance and support by training county staff and facilitating and supporting stakeholder meetings.

NJTPA “On Air!” Pop-up Activity Booth

In order to engage children and teens around a Regional Transportation Plan developed by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), POET designed a simple and fun pop-up activity booth reimagined as a radio studio. Kids sat “inside” the booth and were “interviewed” about what they imagine transportation will be like in the future. POET brought the activity to kid-friendly locations including the Liberty Science Center and Boys and Girls Club after school programs.

New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), Community Planning Workshops 

POET has partnered with NYMTC to execute a series of virtual community planning workshops with communities in the NYMTC region. The workshops facilitate meaningful discussions among local officials, residents, and stakeholders on topics relating to NYMTC’s Regional Transportation Plan, Moving Forward. The team assisted in planning, facilitating, and executing community workshops for various towns through research and the implementation of its outreach plan. 

Set the Table! Civic Dinner Parties

POET developed, coordinated, and managed this civic dinner party program to engage Millennials in NJTPA’s regional planning process. Volunteers hosted dinner parties with their friends where they discussed elements of the regional plan, such as technology, resiliency, and the economy. POET designed a “meeting-in-a-box” to assist each dinner host, including a card game with questions and facts to guide the conversation and forms to collect feedback. POET also created the program’s branding and successful social media campaign, attracting many applicants.

TNJ Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement

POET coordinated both stakeholder and public engagement for the Together North Jersey Regional Plan. Activities included management of Steering, Executive, and Standing Committees consisting of 300 members in total; planning and execution of 15 regional workshops; 20 pop-up kiosk events; online engagement via; 3 major conferences; and multiple working group meetings.

Public Engagement Research

POET conducted eight diverse focus groups throughout North Jersey to understand residents’ reactions to marketing messages, motivations for attending public meetings, and awareness of NJTPA’s outreach efforts. In addition, POET created a searchable database detailing over 250 unique public engagement techniques and best practices that other public agencies have used to reach a variety of audiences. Planning agencies can identify strategies that fit their projects by budget, scale, purpose, and additional factors.

TCRP – Pathways to Effective, Inclusive, and Equitable Virtual Public Engagement  

The POET research team worked to assess current and best practices for transit agencies to engage with the public, particularly those of vulnerable communities. Tasks included recruiting for and facilitating focus group discussion with practitioners of virtual public engagement with vulnerable communities, generating summaries and key findings from discussion, contributing to the writing of the final report, summarizing findings from all research tasks, and developing a webinar on research findings.  

Contact Us

For more information, please contact us at:

Phone: 848.932.2876 or 848.932.2376

Email: poet [at]