You may be wondering – what’s all the fuss about online engagement tools? Don’t the traditional methods work just fine?
Digital tools have a few key advantages over traditional methods of public engagement. Here are six of the most common benefits of online engagement that we hear from organizations:
1. Increased quantity of participants
Typically you hear from 50 people at a public meeting. While their input may be helpful, these people generally represent a narrow demographic. Their opinions are not representative of the entire community.
Projects that take advantage of online engagement tools reduce the barriers to participation. This leads to the potential of gathering feedback from thousands of community members. Since this input comes from a much larger part of the community, it will better reflect all stakeholders.
2. Decreased costs
Keeping costs under control is important for any project. When budgeting your project, keep in mind that traditional forms of engagement can be expensive. A standard public meeting could cost $10,000 or more. If this public meeting engages only 50 attendees the cost is $200 per participant.
With a well-designed digital engagement tool, this cost could be closer to $5 per participant. These cost-savings will leave more resources for other activities.
3. Increased quality of responses
It’s not just about the numbers, it’s also about quality. Asking someone an open-ended or multiple-choice question is easy, but it can be uninformed or low-quality data.
Online engagement has the capacity to combine data collection tools with an educational process. This way the input that is gathered is as informed as possible. Rich choices with education lead to higher-quality feedback.
4. Quantifiable data
Gathering input from thousands of people is great. What’s not great is having to input data manually or making sense of hundreds of comments.
Digital tools give you data that is easy to analyze and take action on. This allows your team to spend more time on finalizing reports and getting them approved.
5. Community buy-in
You need community and stakeholder buy-in to support your plans through to implementation. Nothing creates buy-in more than a transparent process that allows your community to have their say. The more people that you can engage in an inclusive way, the more support your project will have in the community.
Even those who ardently oppose your plans will appreciate having their voice heard. Such inclusion may even help to soften their opposition.
6. Protection from backlash
The last thing an agency wants is protests and news stories in the papers about community opposition. By involving the public in your planning process, you can create a better rapport with your constituents. This can help avoid or lessen any backlash. Great online tools provide an outlet for public input without allowing for negative comments to dominate the conversation.
Online public engagement tools are giving project leaders even more ways to reach out and gather public input. Combining the best of both traditional and online public engagement techniques is a sure-fire way to get your community engaged!