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Can online public consultation software address the 4 main areas of consultation?

Can online public consultation software address the 4 main areas of consultation (public, targeted, confidential, post-decision consultation)?

Online public consultation software is specifically built to address the needs of all sizes, forms and stages of consultation. Each consultation is always unique so it’s important your chosen software has flexibility and a variety of tools and permissions to allow you to manage all types of consultation. 

Here we look at 4 common types of consultation and see how online public consultation software can assist in each:  

Public  

When we think of consultation, we are often thinking of mass public consultation where we are seeking the opinions of the community or stakeholders as a whole. The audience is generally quite large and disparate; for example, across a council district or a city. Public consultation can relate to any stakeholder who is interested in the organisation which could be local, national or even global.  

The challenge in this form of consultation is in reaching and activating this audience by finding the right channels to communicate with them. A communications plan can assist in this by looking at each stakeholder, their likely methods of communication and how best to engage them in the consultation. This could be signage, social media posts, direct emails, posters or many other forms of marketing. Often it takes multiple channels to achieve this. All marketing should direct people towards one place where people can engage and the organisation can collate feedback and data 

Online public consultation software offers a huge variety of tools to engage and consult with such as surveys, ideas walls, Q&As, events, participatory budgeting etc. Some engagement platforms like Engagement Hub also offered the added layer of capturing and managing all your stakeholder data as well. This means that you can use a heat map of your desired geographical area to assess coverage or you can review demographic data to get better insights into your audience. This can identify gaps which can then be reached through more targeted marketing and communications to entice people to the online consultation platform.  

Targeted 

Targeted consultation is focused towards a particular group of stakeholders. This could be those impacted by civil works outside their homes and businesses or shareholders in a company for example.  

The main difference in the approach to this type of consultation in comparison to the public is the marketing and communications activity is much more tailored and precise. For example, an organisation engaging with their shareholders can use direct contact methods such as email, mail or social media ad targeting to reach them.  

Stakeholders can then be invited directly to a private or public project on your online public consultation software and you can tailor the permissions to suit your needs. For example, it is the norm for users to have to register to partake in online consultation which can be a barrier for some. In a private, targeted consultation – you could change survey permissions to allow anonymous submissions. This level of flexibility can increase the engagement rate.  

Engagement Hub is the only software to include a comprehensive Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM) system. In the case of targeted consultation, this system would help you identify which of your target audience are yet to engage and enable you to build a specific email communication directly to this segment. The SRM and related reporting would also facilitate in-depth reports into your target audience providing you with valuable insights and actions.  

Confidential 

Online public consultation software is used by many organisations purely for private or confidential consultations. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs used their Engagement Hub platform to engage with high-level stakeholders like ministers, leading scientists and experts ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021.  

An online public consultation software system creates a secure place to facilitate discussions and to store all data. Private invite-only links can be sent to people and once logged in all their feedback and activity on the site is stored within the system. With Engagement Hub you can also then view numerous reports to segment and understand the data and use the built-in communication system to email all stakeholders, individuals or a chosen segment.  

Unlike other platforms, Engagement Hub doesn’t charge extra for private projects so you can build out multiple projects for consultations large and small. Many clients also run committees or private forums through our online software which enables them to create a safe space for consultation and communication with everything logged against individual stakeholders.  

Post-Decision Consultation  

Generally, consultation is geared towards decision making and consultation takes place as part of that process. However, in some circumstances post-decision consultation only is possible.  

Depending on the decision, it’s important to identify how the consultation can impact outcomes. For example, if the decision has been made to demolish a building but there is scope to consult on what happens to the site or funding has been given for a new park and you can consult on how that is spent through participatory budgeting or the name of the park – these provide vital opportunities for your community and stakeholders to get involved.  

It’s important to use your online public consultation software to assist in telling the story of how the decision was made – using documents, timelines, videos and images. The software can assist you in informing on the project to date and then finding ways to consult on any decisions still to be made. Tools such as Ideas Walls or Q&As can assist in tailoring the input or a mapping tool can allow registrants to pin ideas and comments in geographical locations.  

Online public consultation software can also assist you in evaluating your consultation process and providing reports and statistics to share data from throughout the whole decision-making process. For example, if the pre-decision consultation was confidential and private – you can tailor your reports and release statistics, comments and sentiment to demonstrate how the decision was made. This is important for transparency and accountability in post-decision consultation.  

 

Online engagement software, like Engagement Hub, forms a critical part of your communication and engagement toolkit at any stage and for any type of consultation. For more information on the specific features discussed above, please visit our software overview here or book a no-obligation demonstration online with us today.  

 

 

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