Effective Communication with the Public
What Is Public Participation?
Public participation means involving those affected by a decision in the decision-making process.
It includes the understanding that the public’s contribution will ultimately influence decisions.
Public participation (also called public involvement) can be put into action in various ways: public meetings, surveys, open houses, workshops, polling, citizens’ advisory committees, piggybacking onto civic events, etc.
Why Is It Important?
Good public participation leads to better decisions, with members of the public feeling more satisfied with and supportive of the outcome.
Tips for Success
Tip #1: Perform an analysis of your stakeholders (those individuals/entities affected by a project) to determine how best to communicate with them. The best communication strategy usually employs several techniques.
Tip #2: “Go where the people are to engage them and seek out their opinions,” advises Pat Acker, PE, who leads Halff Associates’ Water Services. “With people’s busy lives, you can’t hold a public meeting and hope they attend. Figure out where people are and meet them there, like at civic or school activities and chamber of commerce events.”
Tip #3: Use technology. Many of your stakeholders will be technologically savvy and appreciate the opportunity to give input without leaving the comfort of home or having another meeting on their to-do list. Offer streaming webcasts of a public meeting or a project Facebook page and let people submit comments through their smart phones. Halff recently used interactive digital maps to communicate with the public about changes to Dallas’ flood risk maps.
Successful Public Participation in Action:
Public involvement is an important component of any project that substantially affects the public – and a concept that Halff Associates embraces and puts into practice well.
For example, when Halff was engaged to rehabilitate a wastewater interceptor in Arlington, our philosophy was to communicate with the public early and often. The existing interceptor and a number of manholes were located in people’s backyards (and in some cases, directly under retaining walls, tennis courts and swimming pools).
Halff held public meetings and then closely coordinated with affected home and property owners, which helped us identify optimal routes for manhole access to insert cured-in-place pipe liner. The public feedback also led to Halff determining optimal locations of and specifications for bypass pumping so that we could minimize aesthetic, noise and traffic disruptions.
Halff’s public involvement plan was a win-win. Neighborhood concerns were heard and ideas embraced, and Halff demonstrated that we communicate clearly and work well with affected residents to find solutions while minimizing quality-of-life disruptions and complaints.
If Halff Associates can help your team with engineering projects requiring successful public outreach, please call Executive Vice President Jessica Baker, PE, CFM, PMP, at (214) 217-6692.
Did You Know? Water and wastewater mains designed by Halff engineers during the past 15 years would stretch (if connected together end to end) from Dallas to Houston to McAllen and back to Dallas!
Halff Associates is an employee-owned, diverse multi-disciplined professional services firm founded in Dallas, Texas, more than 60 years ago. Our clients include BRA, DWU, GBRA, LCRA, SARA, SAWS, SJRA, TRWD, UTRWD, and numerous municipalities throughout Texas.