Do you want outstanding outcomes from community engagement? Follow our 10 steps to success.

Digital tech is rapidly transforming the outcomes of public consultation, empowering the 'silent majority' and those traditionally disenfranchised from the planning system to influence built environment projects from the outset. But how do online platforms
form part of a wider engagement strategy that brings success for both communities and agents of change?

At Participatr, our bespoke engagement strategies adapt to the unique circumstances of the project and the communities that it affects, drawing on several years of 'at the coalface' engagement experience. However, we always recommend following 10 core steps to make sure your engagement process runs smoothly and achieves the best possible, most representative outcomes:

Plan your messages
Consistency of message is central to a positive public perception of your project. Put yourself in in the shoes of a member of the community and write down the questions that you think they are going to ask, come up with some straight-talking, positive responses and circulate this document round the whole team for their input. This document can then guide the content of your public materials. Your team can also refer it if they get asked a question and be in a position to respond quickly, concisely and consistently.
Establish your position
Word of your project can often get out before you're ready to launch your engagement process, meaning people can start talking about it without possession of all of the facts. So you need to be in a position to 'set the record straight' before gossip starts and misinformation starts to spread. Prepare a statement setting out the current position and the next steps, which can be issued swiftly, if necessary.
Map your stakeholders
Consider who has a stake in your project and create a database to capture their contact details and any conversations that take place. This includes those that might see a benefit to what you're doing, those negatively affected, those that will make decisions about your project, those that can influence decisions (including the media) and those that might have an ideological viewpoint on your plans.
Engage key influencers
Think about the best time and method to contact the most influential stakeholders and start a conversation. This is usually just before you engage with the wider public, which can help you get them on-side and gain early insight to shape your strategy for engaging with the wider public. However, early 'behind closed doors' conversations with influencers could also be perceived as putting the importance of their opinion above the community's and prejudicing their input, so think carefully about the pros and cons.
Motivate involvement
Publicity could include a mail-drop, notices in existing publications, social media promoted content or advertising in high footfall locations. It's important to grab people's attention and motivate their involvement - a blank window envelope addressed to the occupier is likely to be dismissed as marketing, so consider a postcard with concise messages and bold imagery.
Identify community aspirations
Ask local people about the issues that matter to them and their broad aspirations for their locality before plans are formulated. This makes plans more informed, minimises the risk of retrospective technical work and builds a sense of collaboration with the community. Our interactive pin-drop maps and step-by-step surveys help you gather insight from younger and busier people that don't tend to engage in traditional ways.
Gather feedback
Now you've understood the key local issues and the design team has created proposals that respond positively to local aspirations, it is important to explain how early community input has shaped the plans and invite community feedback. Our digital platform makes it easy to exhibit your plans and gather feedback from traditionally hard-to-reach people.
Report back
Plans informed by meaningful early-stage engagement tend to bring greater levels of community buy-in. It's important to demonstrate that support to the decision-makers in simple terms when your planning application is submitted or your policy enters the process for adoption, using infographics and charts to make the case. Our platform can visualise the outcomes of polls and questionnaires in real time to help achieve this.
Mobilise advocates
Throughout the process, you've gathered deep insight from the community on their interests and their enthusiasm for your plans. Before a decision is made on your project, it's important to mobilise your supporters to vocalise their support to the decision makers. Our project dashboard helps you filter out your project supporters and send them a call-to-action email.
Maintain the conversation
So you've built community buy-in, trust in what you're doing and been given the go-ahead from the decision-makers. But it's important to continue the conversation during the construction or implementation phase to maintain a positive relationship with the community and your stakeholders. Our online news and event feed is a great way to provide accessible construction information.

Our digital platform is always deployed as part of a bespoke engagement strategy, combining digital, print and face-to-face engagement methods that will be most effective for your project and most appropriate for the community it affects. To find out what we would recommend for your project, please Get in touch.

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