Engagement Plans: An Essential Part of Every Public Participation Project

We understand the pull to jump right into a public consultation project. Whether it’s sending out an invitation to an open house or scheduling social media posts – sometimes, in the thick of things, you just want to get the ball rolling.

So, why stop and make a comprehensive engagement plan?

Here are three reasons why it’s important to pull back, take a holistic approach and start your public engagement project with a solid plan:

1. To identify what you want to learn from the engagement

Before diving in, it’s important to map out what you’ll be asking the public. Will public input influence this project, and if so, how? Will you be informing, consulting, involving, collaborating or empowering your audience?

For example, is your goal simply to share information about the upcoming impacts of a construction project? Or to seek community feedback on how traffic impacts could be mitigated during a construction project?

At ZINC, we find it helpful to identify a set of goals for a project, with the level of engagement included in each goal. It may seem simple, but writing this out early in the process can ultimately help you:

  • determine what tools are best to use
  • set clear expectations for the public around their level of involvement
  • assess the success of an engagement once it’s complete

2. To set clear expectations for the team

Often, engagement projects involve several different parties – from engineers and communications team members to consultants and department heads.

Creating an engagement plan and outlining roles and responsibilities keeps everyone clear on where and when they’ll be needed. It also allows team members to have their say about what’s important in the engagement process.

For example, a CAO might focus on event delivery and ensuring the plan is inclusive for all community members. While an engineer might take a close look at plans for addressing environmental concerns in public communications.

3. To look at the bigger picture

By sitting down and identifying the context of a project in the wider community, you can determine how BEST to engage your audience. What are some issues and opportunities that exist around the project?

For example, how much background info does the community have? Is there already a sense of positivity or negativity towards the project? Is there an opportunity to get impactful community spokespeople on board?

Taking this one simple step can help set the appropriate tone for an engagement – and play a big role in improving the quality/direction of key messages.

We believe that mapping out the basics first and establishing the fundamentals, helps get everyone on the same page and gives your project a clear path forward – a simple, but vital part of the engagement process.

What do you ZINC? Do you map out an engagement plan or just dive right in? Send us a note at info@zincstrategies.com and let us know why an engagement plan is important to you!