At some point in time, planners might have had the option to create their plans without including the public and to simply present the final product at a workshop. And we know how that goes, duck and cover. With the ease of publishing and sharing news, information and commentary on the Internet today, planners and decision-makers do not have that option any longer. Your residents are talking about your plans or proposed changes, whether you like it or not. Worse, if you’re not careful, they might gain broad support quickly and public opinion about your project is about to get negative. Not that black box decision-making ever was a promising strategy (even though it must have worked well for a long time), these days your efforts can easily be torpedoed by angry citizens, with online outreach, organizing and collaboration tools readily available at no cost.
So what can a planner do about it? Obviously the question regarding how you talk to and include the public during your planning process will make a difference. But right from the start it’s a smart idea to start monitoring what people are saying about your project. And online monitoring tools are available at no cost these days.
The video below, created by HubSpot’s Lily Zho gives you a great overview of effective tools for that purpose that are available at no cost:
For larger projects that get a lot of attention in the media and on social media sites, it might even be a way to keep track of a distributed conversation.
Different people prefer different sites, so gathering commentary from various online destinations enhances the likelihood of obtaining a representative sample of customers/prospects. Setting up tools such as Google Alerts allows you to aggregate relevant comments, making it easy to organize information. As a result, you’ll have a better overall sense of how customers perceive your products. This will give you a better idea of the aspects of your products that need improvement and help you facilitate changes that will satisfy potential customers and strengthen your brand.
While you might offer a consultation or discussion feature on your project website, people might start a Facebook group to rally folks against your project. Using monitoring tools will help you find out about these side-discussions and to get engaged on their turf.
This post was inspired by HubSpotBlog.