SASHA UGI, from page 9
the community. Start by creating a survey to garner comments on the proposed project and/or solutions (SurveyMonkey is our favorite survey tool). Add to it using community engagement platforms, such as Social Pinpoint, which enables you to create an interactive mapping tool as a part of the survey. These maps let users drop a point at their location of concern within the study area and provide comments. Another technique for driving engagement is to incentivize the user to take the survey. One idea for achieving this is to work with local restaurants to distribute a QR code with a link to the survey. This QR code can be printed on table tents or small cards and placed at tables. Once the survey is completed, the diner receives a percentage or dollar amount off their purchase. You’ll need to reimburse the restaurant from your project budget, but in return, you’ll reach residents who may not respond to traditional forms of outreach – and you’ll give them something to do while they wait for their food. ❚ ❚ Text messaging. To help achieve equitable engagement, we typically pair online surveys with distribution via text message. This approach allows input to be gained from technologically savvy citizens, as well as residents who lack access to and/or a comfort level with other outreach methods. “Gaining support from stakeholders, elected/appointed officials, and the public is foundational to a project’s success. Guided by a public participation plan, outreach and engagement strategies range from traditional methods to digital-focused tools to innovative techniques.” 3)Envisioning. This final strategy builds upon educating and engaging the community. You’ll need to help the public envision how this project will positively impact them – whether by improving their commute, quality of life, safety, and/or multi-modal options. ❚ ❚ “Walk-n-talk” events. Conducted by walking the study area, these casual conversations between your consultant team members (specifically the project’s engineers who understand various complexities of the project) and stakeholders, residents, and elected/appointed officials can help determine potential concerns, challenges, and improvements to better inform the potential design. ❚ ❚ Interactive visual storyboards. Break down a project and its various stages, components, and intricacies by visually depicting the experience. Sharing 3D images and renderings of the final proposed project concepts can go a long way in helping others understand and envision the final design. SASHA UGI is the director of communications and marketing at Croy Engineering. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and blogs. Then, during the project’s process, craft press releases on key milestones and/or engagement activities to distribute to these media contacts. If you’re able to, collaborate with your client’s communications team to leverage any existing media relationships to spread the word even more. ❚ ❚ Social media. A no-brainer for reaching people these days, social media encompasses many platforms – whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and, for those brave enough, TikTok – and software to help you take advantage of each one. While we could spend pages on this topic alone, we’ll leave you with our team’s favorite tool to leverage: Geofencing. Facebook geofencing marketing allows you to target specific audiences based on their location within a geographic area with a tailored ad message – a perfect solution for reaching people in or traveling through the project area. ❚ ❚ Email marketing. There are numerous email marketing software companies to choose from (MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular, cost-effective options) and use to send mass emails with project information. While you may need to generate your outreach list organically, make sure an existing database isn’t around from previous projects and/or studies in the area to help give you a head-start. ❚ ❚ Marketing materials. There will always be a need for printed materials – fact sheets, flyers, and posters – to disseminate information. Ultimately, these marketing materials should be clear, concise, and visually appealing, as well as placed in public locations near the project, such as libraries and grocery stores. ❚ ❚ Pre-recorded presentations and videos. As attention- spans shorten, videos can be an effective tool for capturing audiences. This can be achieved by posting a pre-recorded presentation for viewers to watch at their convenience or creating a video from scratch with project information and highlights (if choosing this route, we like using Adobe Spark, Canva, or Vimeo). 2)Engaging. While Public Information Open Houses and public forums have been a staple to a project’s public involvement process in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the use of these gatherings as a method for engagement. While these events remain an important component to the overall engagement strategy, let’s take a look at some other methods for gaining feedback, ideas, and input: ❚ ❚ Standalone engagements. Set up chalkboard/whiteboard stations at strategic locations (such as libraries and parks) to capture ideas and concerns from the public. These contactless intercepts enable citizens to provide comments at their convenience with the safety of social distancing and minimal in-person interaction. Plus, these boards can be easily reviewed and updated at various points during a project’s process. ❚ ❚ Pop-ups. As they make a comeback, local festivals and fairs are a great way to interact outdoors with those who live in the project area by hosting a booth. In addition to your study materials, bring swag items or coupons to help incentivize festivalgoers to stop by your booth, learn about your project, and provide feedback. ❚ ❚ Surveys. A common way to gather feedback, surveys can be your team’s secret weapon when it comes to engaging
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THE ZWEIG LETTER NOVEMBER 8, 2021, ISSUE 1416
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