Your consultation audience should include anyone that could affected by your plans, both in a positive and a negative sense, and the people that could influence or make the ultimate decision

These are your 'stakeholders', and it's important to know who they are before you work out what you will say to them and how you are going to speak to them, otherwise you risk speaking to them too late or not at all. They generally fall into five broad categories:

People that might be worried about it

Think about who's view, journey times, air quality or property value could be affected by your plans, for example. It might be that people have an ideological point of view on what you're trying to do, so look further afield for groups or organisations that might simply be interested in what you are doing.

People that could benefit from it

It is easy to think that 'stakeholders' are only those who feel that they stand to lose out because of your plans. But there are inevitably people that could benefit from, or ideologically approve of, investment in homes, schools, shops, transport and workplaces, so get them involved too.

People that will make a decision on it

Decision-makers could be politicians, civil servants, funders or even ordinary people that sit on panels, like social housing tenants for example. They will be asked to decide based on the facts that are presented to them, so make sure you get the chance to do so before somebody else does.

People that influence decision-makers

Decision-makers are most likely to be people. People trust the opinions and fact presented by people they trust. Work out who your decision-makers trust, and make sure you get across the facts to them too, so that the facts have the best chance of getting through to the decision-makers.

People that talk regularly to other stakeholders

This is the category of people that those running consultations often miss. You don't necessarily need to open new lines of communication when there are already plenty of them in place. For example, to get the word out to school parents, speak to the Headteacher or Board of Governors.

Written by Paul Erskine-Fox - Founder, Participatr

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