5 Reasons to Use Public Engagement in Your Next Project 

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Thought Leadership

One of my all-time favorite movies is Margin Call. There is a scene in the movie where Stanley Tucci’s character tells his colleague, “Did you know I built a bridge once?” and goes on to explain his past life as an engineer and the impact that bridge had on the community and the people who relied on it daily to get across the Ohio River. While the movie is fictional, the story couldn’t be truer.

By the Numbers

With the impact public infrastructure has on the daily lives of your community, here are five reasons why you should consider a public engagement strategy with your next project.

Public engagement Park Layout Map

Reason Number 1: Improved Project Design

Gaining Valuable Local Insights

Local communities possess a wealth of knowledge about their environment. Engaging the public can unveil valuable insights that may not be apparent to project designers or planners. By incorporating community feedback, you can identify potential issues early on and address them in the design phase, leading to a more efficient and effective project.

Tailoring Solutions to Community Needs

Public engagement allows for a deeper understanding of the community’s needs and preferences. This information is critical for designing infrastructure projects that are not only functional but also align with the community’s vision for development. As a result, the project is more likely to be accepted and valued by those it aims to serve.

How We Do It

Our team can help craft public engagement surveys, live polling, or other real-time or on demand methods for collecting community information and feedback. We’ve found this information is helpful in guiding decision makers to select solutions that resonate with their constituents.

Reason Number 2: Enhanced Transparency and Trust

Building Trust through Open Dialogue

Transparency is key to building trust between project partners, municipalities, and the community. Open dialogue about the project’s objectives, potential impacts, and mitigation measures can alleviate concerns and misconceptions. When the public feels informed and heard, they are more likely to trust the process and the outcomes.

Establishing Long-Term Relationships

Public engagement is not just about a single project; it’s about establishing long-term relationships with the community. These relationships can pave the way for smoother implementations of future projects and create a foundation for ongoing collaboration.

How We Do It

Our team can act as an extension of your staff, providing recommendations and bandwidth to help guide messaging and create content that builds trust. Whether it’s social media campaigns or mailers, we’re here to make communicating complex projects simple and friction-free.

Reason Number 3: Education and Stewardship

Promoting Understanding of Infrastructure Challenges

Public engagement provides an opportunity to educate the community about the complexities and challenges of infrastructure development. This understanding fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the infrastructure, promoting stewardship in the long run.

Encouraging Sustainable Practices

By involving the public in discussions about sustainable options, you can encourage individuals to adopt practices that support the longevity and efficiency of the infrastructure. This collective approach to sustainability can lead to more resilient and environmentally friendly projects.

How We Do It

Our team brings a unique blend of technical engineering expertise and marketing prowess to create educational materials that resonate with the public. Let us help cultivate good stewards of infrastructure in your community.

Reason Number 4: Increased Public Support and Goodwill

Overcoming Opposition with Inclusive Decision-Making

Inclusive decision-making is at the heart of effective public engagement. When the community feels their input has influenced the project, opposition is often reduced. This can lead to increased public support and smoother project implementation.

Minimizing Disruption and Human Kindness

Infrastructure projects can undoubtedly cause frustrating disruptions. Road closures, detours, construction noise, etc. A proactive public engagement process can help minimize the psychological impact of these disruptions and extending thoughtful touches can also build goodwill with the community.

How We Do It

No one likes unexpected delays. By taking a proactive approach to the disruptions caused by infrastructure construction, we work to gain public support and goodwill. This has included methods such as door hangers with coupons supporting local businesses for those along detour routes or providing personalized letters before, during, and after construction to businesses directly impacted.

Reason Number 5: Positive Project Outcomes

Achieving Higher Quality Outcomes

Public engagement can lead to higher quality outcomes by ensuring that the infrastructure meets the real needs of the community. When people feel connected to a project, they are more likely to care for and maintain the infrastructure, ensuring its longevity and success.

Reducing Delays and Cost Overruns

Projects with strong public support face fewer delays due to legal challenges or protests. Engaging the public early and often can help to identify and address concerns before they escalate, reducing the likelihood of costly interruptions.

Enhancing Reputation and Public Image

A successful public engagement strategy can enhance the reputation of the organizations involved. Demonstrating a commitment to community involvement can improve the public image of companies and governments, which is beneficial for future projects and endeavors.

How We Do It

Our team understands the full project life cycle including hurdles faced in funding, regulations, right-of-way acquisition, etc. By being involved from the start of the project, we can walk side-by-side with your team to ensure positive project outcomes through strong public engagement and support.

Conclusion

Public engagement is an essential component of successful infrastructure projects. By involving the community, you can improve project design, enhance transparency and trust, educate the public, increase support and goodwill, and ultimately achieve more positive outcomes. As you plan your next infrastructure project, consider these five reasons to make public engagement a priority, and implement strategies that foster meaningful and productive dialogue with your community.

By integrating public engagement into your infrastructure projects, you not only ensure that the needs and wishes of the community are met but also pave the way for a more collaborative and harmonious development process.

Jenna Abbott, CDMP, PCM® Digital Marketing

Jenna Abbott, CDMP, PCM® Digital Marketing

Jenna brings over eight years of marketing and communications experience in the A/E/C industry. Her background and experience provides a well-rounded approach to all projects with a keen focus on clear communication, meaningful engagement, and positive outcomes for all. In her role at McClure, Jenna oversees all communications including advising executive leadership, facilitates company-wide and stakeholder-specific meetings and events, and provides strategic leadership for the Marketing and Communications team. You can contact Jenna Abbott at jabbott@mcclurevision.com.