Communication Tools

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A

Advertisements

Pros

  • Potentially reaches broad public

Cons

  • Expensive, especially in urban areas
  • Allows for relatively limited amount of information

Examples

  • Newspaper ads
  • Magazine ads

 

Advisory Committees

Pros

  • Provides for detailed analyses for project issues
  • Participants gain understanding of other perspectives, leading toward compromise

Cons

  • General public may not embrace committee's recommendations
  • Members may not achieve consensus
  • Sponsor must accept need for given-and-take
  • Time and labor intensive

Examples

  • Aging Services Advisory Council
  • Community Action Board
  • Veterans Advisory Council
  • Homeless Council
  • Homeless Policy Council

 

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B

Bill Stuffer

Pros

  • Widespread distribution within service area
  • Economical use of existing mailings

Cons

  • Limited information can be conveyed
  • Message may get confused as from the mailing entity

Examples

  • Information flyer included in monthly utility bill

 

Briefings

Pros

  • Control of information/presentation
  • Opportunity to reach a wide variety of individuals who may not have been attracted to another format
  • Opportunity to expand mailing list
  • Similar presentation can be used for different groups
  • Builds community good will

Cons

  • Project stakeholders may not be in target audiences
  • Similar presentation can be used for different groups
  • Topic may be too technical to capture interest of audience

Examples

Using regular meetings of social and civic clubs and organizations to provide an opportunity to inform and educate

  • Rotary
  • Lions
  • Elks
  • Kiwanis
  • League of Women Voters

 

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C

Central Information Contact

Pros

  • People don't get "the run around" when they call
  • Controls information flow
  • Conveys image of "accessibility"

Cons

  • Designated contact must be committed to and prepared for prompt and accurate responses
  • May filter public message from technical staff and decision makers
  • May not serve to answer many of the toughest questions

Examples

  • Identify designated contacts for the public and media

 

Citizen Juries

Pros

  • Great opportunity to develop deep understanding of an issue
  • Public can identify with the "ordinary" citizens
  • Pinpoint fatal flaws or gauge public reaction

Cons

  • Resource intensive

Examples

  • Small group o f ordinary citizens empanelled to learn about an issue, cross examine witnesses, make a recommendation. Always non-binding with no legal standing

 

Coffee Klatches

Pros

  • Relaxed setting is conducive to effective dialogue
  • Maximizes two-way communication

Cons

  • Can be costly and labor intensive

Examples

  • Small meeting with in neighborhood usually at a person's home

 

Community Facilitators

Pros

  • Promotes community-based involvement
  • Capitalizes on existing networks
  • Enhances project credibility

Cons

  • Can be difficult to control information flow
  • Can build false expectation

Examples

  • Use qualified individuals in local community organizations to conduct project outreach

 

Community Fairs

Pros

  • Focuses public attention on one element
  • Conducive to media coverage
  • Allows for different levels of information sharing

Cons

  • Public must be motivated to attend
  • Usually expensive to do it well
  • Can damage image if not done well

Examples

  • engAGE Expo

 

Computer Facilitated Workshop

Pros

  • Immediate graphic results prompt focused discussion
  • Areas of agreement/disagreement easily portrayed

Cons

  • Software limits design
  • Potential for placing too much emphasis on \numbers technology failure

Examples

  • Any sized meeting when participants use interactive computer technology to register opinions

 

Computer-Based Polling

Pros

  • Provides instant analyses of results
  • Can be used in multiple areas
  • Novelty of technique improves rate of response

Cons

  • High expense
  • Details of inquiry is limited

Examples

  • Surveys conducted via computer network

 

Consensus Building Techniques

Pros

  • Encourages compromise among different interests
  • Provides structured and trackable decision making

Cons

  • Not appropriate for groups with no interest in compromise
  • Clever parties can skew results
  • Does not produce a statistically valid solution
  • Consensus may not be reached

Examples

  • Techniques for building consensus on project decisions such as criteria and alternative selection. Often used with advisory committees. Techniques include Delphi, nominal group technique, public value assessment and many others

 

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D

Deliberative Polling

Pros

  • Can tell decision-makers what the public would think if they had more time and information
  • Exposure to different backgrounds, arguments, and views

Cons

  • Resource intensive
  • Often held in conjunction with television companies
  • 2 – 3 day meeting

Examples

  • Measures informed opinion on an issue

 

Design Charrettes

Pros

  • Promotes joint problem solving and creative thinking

Cons

  • Participants may not be seen as representative by larger public

Examples

  • Intensive session where participants re-design project features

 

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E

Expert Panels

Pros

  • Encourages education of the media
  • Presents opportunity for balanced discussion of key
  • Provides opportunity to dispel scientific misinformation

Cons

  • Requires substantial preparation and organization
  • May enhance public concerns by increasing visibility of issues

Examples

  • Public meeting designed in "Meet the Press" format

 

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F

Feature Stories

Pros

  • Can heighten the perceived importance of the project
  • More likely to be read and take and taken seriously by the public

Cons

  • No control over what information is presented or how

Examples

  • Focused story on general project related issue

 

Focus Groups

Pros

  • Provides opportunity to test key messages prior to implementing program
  • Works best for select target audience

Cons

  • Relatively expensive if conducted in focus group testing facility

Examples

  • Message testing forum with randomly selected members of target audience. Can also be used to obtain input on planning decisions

 

Future Search Conference

Pros

  • Can involve hundreds of people simultaneously in major organizations change decisions
  • Individuals are experts
  • Can lead to substantial changes across entire organization

Cons

  • Logistically challenging
  • May be difficult to gain complete commitment from all stake holders
  • 2 – 3 day meeting

Examples

  • Focuses on the future of an organization, a network of people, or a community

 

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I

Information Centers and Field Offices

Pros

  • Provides opportunity for positive media coverage at groundbreaking and other significant events
  • Excellent opportunity to educate school children
  • Places information dissemination in a positive education setting
  • Information is easily accessible to the public
  • Provides an opportunity for more responsive ongoing communications focused on specific public involvement activities

Cons

  • Relatively expensive, especially for project-specific use
  • Access is limited to those in vicinity of the center unless facility is mobile

Examples

  • Clackamas County Information and Referral

 

Information Hot Line

Pros

  • People don't get "the run around" when they call
  • Controls information flow
  • Conveys image of "accessibility"
  • Easy to provide updates on project activities

Cons

  • Designated contact must be committed to and prepared for prompt and accurate responses

Examples

  • Identify a separate line for public access to prerecorded project information or to reach project team members who can answer questions/obtains input

 

Information Repositories

Pros

  • Relevant information is accessible to the public without incurring the costs of complication of tracking multiple copies sent to different people
  • Can set up visible distribution centers for project information

Cons

  • Information repositories are oft not well used by the public

Examples

  • Libraries
  • City Halls
  • Distribution Centers
  • Senior Centers
  • Schools

 

In-Person Surveys

Pros

  • Provides traceable data
  • Reaches broad, representative public

Cons

  • Expensive

Examples

  • One-on-one "focus groups" with standardized questionnaire or methodology such as "stated preference"

 

Internet Surveys/Polls

Pros

  • Provides input from individuals who would be unlikely to attend meetings
  • Provides input from cross-section of public, not just those on mailing list
  • Higher response rate than other communication forms

Cons

  • Generally not statistically valid results
  • Can be very labor intensive to look at all of the responses
  • Cannot control geographic reach of poll
  • Results can be easily skewed

Examples

  • Web-based response polls
  • Survey Monkey

 

Interviews

Pros

  • Provides opportunity for in-depth information exchange in non-threatening forum
  • Provides opportunity to obtain feedback from all stake holders
  • Can be used to evaluate potential citizen committee members

Cons

  • Scheduling multiple interviews can be time consuming

Examples

  • One-to-one meetings with stake holders to gain information for developing or refining public involvement and consensus building programs

 

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M

Mailed Surveys & Questionnaires

Pros

  • Provides input from individuals who would be unlikely to attend meetings
  • Provides input from cross-section of public not just activists
  • Statistically tested results are more persuasive with political bodies and the general public

Cons

  • Response rate is generally low
  • For statistically valid results, can be labor intensive and expensive
  • Level of detail may be limited

Examples

  • Inquiries mailed randomly to sample population to gain specific information for statistical validation

 

Meetings with Existing Groups

Pros

  • Opportunity to get on the agenda
  • Provides opportunity for in-depth information exchange in on-threatening forum

Cons

  • May be too selective and can leave out important groups

Examples

  • Small meeting with existing groups or in conjunction with another event

 

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N

News Conferences

Pros

  • Opportunity to reach all media in one setting

Cons

  • Limited to news-worthy events

Examples

N/A

 

Newspaper Inserts

Pros

  • Provides community-wide distribution of information
  • Presented in the context of local paper, insert is more likely to be read and taken seriously
  • Provides opportunity to include public comment form

Cons

  • Expensive, especially in urban areas

Examples

  • Fact sheet in local newspaper

 

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O

Open Houses

Pros

  • Foster small group or one-on-one communications
  • Ability to draw on other team members to answer difficult questions
  • Less likely to receive media coverage
  • Builds credibility

Cons

  • Difficult to document public input
  • Agitators may stage themselves at each display
  • Usually more staff intensive than a meeting

Examples

  • An open house to allow the public to tour at their own pace. The facility should be set up with several stations, each addressing a separate issue. Resource people guide participants through the exhibits.

 

Open Space Technology

Pros

  • Provides structure for giving people opportunity and responsibility to create valuable product or experience
  • Includes immediate summary of discussion

Cons

  • Most important issues could get lost in the shuffle
  • Can be difficult to get accurate reporting of results

Examples

  • Participants offer topics and others participate according to interest

 

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P

Panels

Pros

  • Provides opportunity to dispel misinformation
  • Can build credibility if all sides are represented
  • May create wanted media attention

Cons

  • May create unwanted media attention

Examples

  • A group assembled to debate or provide input on specific issues

 

Press Releases

Pros

  • Informs the media of project milestones
  • Press release Language is often used directly in articles
  • Opportunity for technical and legal reviews

Cons

  • Low media response rate
  • Frequent poor placement of press release within newspapers

Examples

N/A

 

Printed Public Information Materials

Pros

  • Can reach large target audience allows for technical and legal reviews
  • Encourages written responses if comment form enclosed
  • Facilitates documentation of public involvement process

Cons

  • Only as good as the mailing list/distribution network
  • Limited capability to communicate complicate concepts
  • No guarantee materials will be read

Examples

  • Senior Center Newsletters
  • Fact Sheets
  • Brochures

 

Public Hearings

Pros

  • Provides opportunity for public to speak without rebuttal

Cons

  • Does not foster constructive dialogue
  • Can perpetuate an us vs. them feeling

Examples

  • Formal meetings with scheduled presentations offered

 

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R

Response Sheets

Pros

  • Provides input from those who would be unlikely to attend meetings
  • Provides a mechanism for expanding mailing list

Cons

  • Does not generate statistically valid results
  • Only as good as the mailing list
  • Results can be easily skewed

Examples

  • Mail-In forms, often included in fact sheets and other project mailing to gain information on public concerns and preferences

 

Role-Playing

Pros

  • Allow people to take risk-free positions and view situation from other perspectives
  • Participants gain clearer understanding of issues

Cons

  • People may not be able to actually achieve goal of seeing another's perspective

Examples

  • Participants act out characters in pre-defined situation followed by evaluation of the interaction

 

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S

Samoan Circle

Pros

  • Can be used with 10 to 500 people

Cons

  • Dialogue can stall or become monopolized

Examples

  • Leaderless meeting that stimulates active participation

 

Simulation Games

Pros

  • Can be designed to be an effective educational/training technique, especially for local officials

Cons

  • Requires substantial preparation and time for implementation
  • Can be expensive

Examples

  • Exercises that simulate project decisions

 

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T

Task Forces

Pros

  • Findings of a task force of independent or diverse interests will have greater credibility
  • Provides constructive opportunity for compromise

Cons

  • Task force may not come to consensus or results may be too general to be meaningful
  • Time and labor intensive

Examples

  • A group of representative stakeholders assembled to provide public input to the planning process

 

Technical Information Contact

Pros

  • Builds credibility and helps address public concerns about equity
  • Can be effective conflict resolution technique where facts are debated

Cons

  • Limited opportunities exist for providing technical assistance
  • Technical experts may counter project information

Examples

  • Providing access to technical expertise to individuals and organizations

 

Technical Reports

Pros

  • Provides for thorough explanation of project decisions

Cons

  • Can be more detailed than desired by many participants
  • May not be written in clear, accessible language

Examples

  • Technical documents reporting research or policy findings

 

Telephone Surveys/Polls

Pros

  • Provides input from individuals who would be unlikely to attend meetings
  • Provides input from cross-section of public not just those on mailing lists
  • Higher response rate than with mail-in surveys

Cons

  • More expensive and labor intensive than mailed surveys

Examples

  • Random sampling of populations by telephone to gain specific information for statistical validation

 

Television

Pros

  • Can be used in multiple geographic areas
  • Many people will take the time to watch rather than read

Cons

  • High expense
  • Difficult to gauge impact on audience

Examples

  • Television programming to present information and elicit audience response

 

Tours

Pros

  • Opportunity to develop rapport with key stake holders
  • Reduces outrage by making choices more familiar

Cons

  • Number of participants is limited by logistics
  • Potentially attractive to protestors

Examples

  • Provide tours for key stake holders, elected officials, advisory group members, and the media

 

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W

Web Sites

Pros

  • Reaches across distances
  • Makes information accessible anywhere at any time
  • Saves printing and mailing costs

Cons

  • User may not have easy access to the Internet or knowledge of how to use computers
  • Large files or graphics can take a long time to download

Examples

 

Web-Based Meetings

Pros

  • Cost and time efficient
  • Can include a broader audience
  • [People can participate at different times or at the same time

Cons

  • Consider timing if international time zones are represented
  • Difficult to manage or resolve conflict

Examples

  • Meetings that occur via the Internet

 

Workshops

Pros

  • Excellent for discussions on criteria or analysis of alternative
  • Fosters small group or one-to-one communication
  • Ability to draw on other team members to answer difficult questions
  • Builds credibility
  • Maximizes feedback obtained from participants
  • Fosters public ownership in solving the problem

Cons

  • Hostile participants may resist what they perceive to be the "divide and conquer" strategy of breaking into small groups
  • Several small group facilitators are necessary

Examples

  • An informal public meeting that may include presentations and exhibits but ends with interactive working groups

 

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