Public involvement refers to the direct actions taken to interface with key stakeholders and those affected by any client project. This endeavor can be particularly complicated; however, its importance cannot be overstated. Changes relating to infrastructure and policy must take into account the needs of those affected and public involvement provides channels for this crucial feedback.
Without these avenues in place, it is very easy for members of the public to become uneasy or frustrated with certain projects. It is not uncommon for this frustration to spread across communities and even snowball into misinformation that can be detrimental to the project.
At Big Sky Public Relations, we believe that public feedback is invaluable to our projects. We open different channels of discourse through virtual and in-person open houses, door-to-door canvassing, tabling at community events and conversations via social media. We also provide response and outreach services via phone, text, and email to ensure that all public comments and concerns receive substantive replies.
When concerned citizens voice support, questions, concerns, or other general comments, our goal is to provide an efficient and knowledgeable answer, and to pass the comment along to the project team. This ensures that the public voice is elevated and inspires possible needed changes.
One of the tools that has been instrumental in our public involvement process has been the Systematic Development of Informed Consent (SDIC) training developed by Hans, Annemarie and Jennifer Bleiker. This training focuses especially on interacting with frustrated and emotional stakeholders. As one works openly and honestly with these individuals, expressing both competence and concern, the stakeholder can often reach a level of informed consent. This allows the project to continue to the benefit of the community.
Though the enterprise of public involvement can be daunting, in it lies an immense opportunity to create shared understanding and demonstrate goodwill to those in our communities.