Communicating Government Policies to Local Communities
By Randy James
When it comes to private-sector proposals requiring government approval, companies that try to avoid the community in the approval process put their projects at risk of delay or complete failure. Creating a plan to inform communities and build consensus usually follows several important principles: Present the issues honestly and in terms people can understand; provide the opportunity for give-and-take; use a variety of communications vehicles to ensure that local residents can easily consume the material; create opportunities for community members to actively support the project; and prepare for the unexpected. The most successful community-focused communications campaigns reach diverse audiences using a variety of tools, from websites and brochures to news outlets and new media. They are imaginative and build credibility by framing issues honestly and simply, and in a way that generates enthusiasm about the project or policy. Proactive planning and an inclusive process can help give the "people next door" every reason to become great supporters instead of vocal opponents.