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Community Engagement Strategies and Techniques 17 How to Use the Engagement Strategies Several of the airport managers interviewed, as well as much of the literature reviewed for this study, have indicated that using multiple concurrent, coordinated strategies is more effective than using only one. Actual techniques for community engagement will differ from location to location depending upon the local environment, culture and other factors, but applying these strategies will lead to a more proactive community engagement program. Strategies for Successful Community Engagement Strategy 1: Have a Community/Service-Oriented Commitment During recent decades, there has been a shift toward greater public involvement and an increas- ing expectation on the part of the public that they have a right to be heard and treated as partners in the decision-making process.Organizations and institutions that the public perceives as being public assets are finding that developing a service-oriented attitude is critical to the success of their mission. Public perception necessitates agency change. Because the public has become so well-informed and involved in many areas, organizations and institutions that the public perceives as being public assets are finding that developing a service-oriented attitude is critical to the success of their mission. A service-oriented attitude means that every individual in the organization must relate to the public as if every member of the public were contributing to their paycheck, because the public perception is that they do. The literature review and case studies confirmed that a comprehensive, interactive approach to public involvement requires a cultural change from the top down, espe- cially as the aviation industry has no strong mandates to require interactive engagement. Surveyed airports with dedicated noise management personnel acknowledged the need for technical skills or the ability to acquire them. However, an emerging realization, strongly supported by airports that have successful public communications programs, is that a "public service attitude" and "people skills" are equally important. Community interest groups that were interviewed strongly agree. Airports with very small staffs must work even harder to assure all staff has a service-oriented attitude since they cannot afford to hire separate staff to work with the public. Community/Service-Oriented Strategies for Success ∑ Solicit the support of the airport's senior management to initiate steps to create a service- oriented mindset. ∑ Instill the attitude of willingness to try new things. Be open to good ideas from anywhere. ≠ Establish ongoing relationships and build partnerships beyond the noise department. ≠ Expect change to be a long-term process. ∑ Make a "service-oriented attitude" and "people skills" or the aptitude to learn these skills a principal consideration in new hires. ∑ Provide training opportunities for existing staff to learn more about engagement techniques and approaches to convey a "service-oriented attitude". Public relations/customer service training is very important. ∑ Assign sensitive and public service oriented spokespersons to public meetings. ∑ Provide a basic educational program regarding noise issues and communication with the pub- lic to EVERY airport staff person that interacts with the public. ∑ All noise staff, including support staff, should be able to answer questions and/or make presentations. ∑ Supplement a small noise staff with other airport staff who work with the public, for example, a public relations staff.
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18 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations ∑ Select a noise staff with these most important characteristics: ≠ Experience in community relations and people skills: ability to listen and have a thorough understanding of what people are trying to say; ability to deal with people calmly without getting excited or upset; ability to make people feel comfortable that the noise staff have researched the answer; ability to educate and respond to people; friendliness. ≠ Technical skills, ability to document the information properly. ≠ Quick learners with good work ethic. Strategy 2: Develop Progressive Communication Strategies The history of most airports is decades long; many have been in place for more than 50 years. The last half century has been a time of major suburban growth. Airports constructed far away from development now find development surrounding them and the public residing much closer than it once was. Airports upgrade and add facilities, add or change their service or basic mission, incor- porate on-airport development, and expand their boundaries. All these efforts generate public interest and potentially negative public reactions. Airports, no matter how small and seemingly sta- ble, must develop a strategy to communicate with the public that looks far into the future to assure that the airport remains a viable part of that future. Airports, interest groups, and other industries have learned a great deal about setting up com- munication programs that deal with controversial issues, often from their initial mistakes. Advice provided by those interviewed for the preparation of this Guidebook can help other program man- agers avoid the same or similar mistakes. Chapter 1 "6 Keys" and Chapter 5 "case studies" of this Guidebook provide synopses of airport approaches to developing and using progressive strategies for communication. The techniques pro- vided in a later section of this chapter refer to Toolkit examples of such strategies, as implemented by airports and other public bodies. New Technology for Public Communications Today there exists an astounding array of new communications tools. Internet-based social media tools like blogs, podcasts, social networks, and other new and emerging communications tools and technologies have and will continue to expand the ways people communicate with each other. Although mainstream media continues to play a role in the dissemination of information, this traditional channel is being influenced by digital media. The Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey in 2006 designed to classify Amer- icans into different groups of technology users (17). The authors developed a typology along three dimensions of people's relationship to information and communications technology: assets, actions, and attitudes. A summary of findings are: ∑ 8% of Americans are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile applications; ∑ Another 23% are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters ≠ they use gadgets to keep up with social networks or be productive at work; ∑ 10% rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment; ∑ 10% use information gadgets, but find it a hassle; and ∑ 49% of Americans only occasionally use modern gadgetry and many others bristle at elec- tronic connectivity. Progressive Communication Strategies for Success ∑ Improve Relationships Before a Crisis Happens ≠ Make communication mean constructive involvement and building trust, not just a one- way flow of information. ≠ Approach people well in advance of change--not when it is a "done deal".
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Community Engagement Strategies and Techniques 19 ≠ Increase options for participation. Use small group and one-on-one meetings in the com- munity to improve relations. Meet people on their own turf and target homeowner asso- ciations; follow up on meetings with responses to questions. ≠ The human face and voice are important: offer the option of a personal response on certain types of complaints. ∑ Developing a Program ≠ Design a program that fits the airport's situation. There is no simple public involvement process that meets the needs of every airport. Draw examples and techniques from the best practices of others. One size does not fit all. ≠ Develop a coherent strategy of public education and engagement as well as airport user monitoring, negotiating, and enforcement. ≠ Expect community interest and involvement to rise and fall with the visibility of issues at the airport. ≠ Assure that the tone of communications is not condescending, patronizing, or confronta- tional. Get help with communications even if the airport is small, if there are plans for any change in the configuration of the airport or if there are any significant changes in land use within five or fewer miles of the airport under major corridors of flight. ≠ Have a Public Involvement and Noise Program plan even if environmentally significant noise contours are entirely on airport property. The mere availability of a plan for each of these topics will provide consistency in response to public questions raised, even if no sig- nificant effects are present. ≠ Monitor, communicate, and make decisions with key public. Focus communications on the present and the future, rather than on historic situations. ≠ Aim the communications program to people in the middle--not those strongly for or against the airport. ≠ Consider well the impact of the type of governance on the noise communications strategy. How can local officials become involved in a positive way? ≠ Develop ways to gauge when both the airport and the community group are really willing to listen, to state their positions openly, and to seek progress toward understanding. ≠ Expect meaningful opposition on airport noise issues. Encourage the community to per- ceive for itself unreasonableness in its membership and to form its own conclusions. Don't react defensively. ∑ Embrace and use new technology for public communications ≠ Determine what level of technology use is possible now at the airport and start preparing for use of new and evolving technology appropriate to the specific groups the airport wishes to reach. ≠ Identify airport staff members who are interested in and experienced in the use of Internet technology and get their assistance in developing public communications Internet based strategies. ≠ Improve the graphics, clarity and simplicity of writing, and ease of navigation of existing website. Add interactive elements. ≠ Learn the vocabulary and uses of evolving Internet communication technology. Start with a limited approach to test the time, cost, and controls required. The study determined that Americans sort into 10 distinct groups of users of information and communication technology (ICT). The 10 groups that emerge in the typology fit broadly into an elite or high end, middle of the road or medium users, and those with few technology assets or low-level adopters framework. However, the groups within each broad category have their own particular characteristics, attitudes and usage patterns. See Table 4-1. ∑ The high end elite users of ICTs consist of four groups that have the most information tech- nology, are heavy and frequent users of the Internet and cell phones and, to varying degrees,
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20 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations Table 4-1. Ten distinct groups of users. A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users. Horrigan, John B., Associate Director for Research, PEW/INTERNET, May 7, 2007. (17) are engaged with user-generated content. Members of these groups have generally high levels of satisfaction about the role of ICTs in their lives, but the groups differ on whether the extra availability is a good thing or not. ∑ The medium users middle-of-the-road users consist of two groups whose outlook toward information technology is task-oriented. They use ICTs for communication more than they use it for self-expression. One group finds this pattern of information technology use satisfy- ing and beneficial, while the other finds it burdensome. ∑ For those with few technology assets, the low-level adopters (four groups), modern gadgetry is at or near the periphery of their daily lives. Some find it useful, others don't, and others sim- ply stick to the plain old telephone and television. Internet usage and access is continuing to accelerate so more are becoming medium and high end users with time. Example Tools Communication ∑ Blogs: Blogger, Livejournal, TypePad, Wordpress, Vox ∑ Microblogs: Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku
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Community Engagement Strategies and Techniques 21 ∑ Social networking: Avatars United, Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orkut, Skyrock, Micromagnate.com, Flickr ∑ Social network aggregation: FriendFeed, Youmeo ∑ Events: Upcoming.org, Eventful Collaboration ∑ Wikis: Wikipedia, PBwiki ∑ Social bookmarking: Delicious, StumbleUpon ∑ Social News Sites: Digg, Mixx, Reddit ∑ Opinion sites: epinions, Yelp Multimedia ∑ Photo sharing: Flickr, Zooomr, Photobucket, SmugMug ∑ Video sharing: YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, Revver, Openfilm ∑ Livecasting: Ustream, Justin.tv, Stickam ∑ Audio and Music Sharing: imeem, The Hype Machine, Last.fm, ccMixter Strategy 3: Establish Continuous Proactive Engagement Trust Identified As Critical Element To earn trust with the public and interest groups requires proactive involvement, not merely a reactive response to public challenge. Non-airport groups that were interviewed for this project indicated that methods for airports to build a relationship of trust with the community included listening, being open, giving people the facts with explanations and actually doing something to reduce noise impacts. Most non-airport groups have long term relationships with airports, some of which were originally addressed reac- tively by the airport, but have become proactive over time. A strong example of the value of pro- active involvement was from an airport that had rated a number of communications techniques as a complete failure due to a lawsuit. The airport staff interviewed said in retrospect that proactively initiating discussions with the neighborhood before there was controversy and starting noise abate- ment procedures would have been a better approach than waiting for the complaints to be made. Proactive Engagement Strategies for Success ∑ Implement permanent, ongoing outreach relationships, enhanced by increased activity dur- ing a growth project or noise study. ∑ Create an ongoing, cooperative relationship and dialog with the community well before a proj- ect begins or crisis occurs. ≠ If appropriate, develop, participate in, and support with staff and financial resources an airport/community roundtable whose meetings serve as a public forum on noise issues and mitigation. ≠ Give ownership and responsibility to all group members and establish ground rules for how they will make decisions to help them succeed. ∑ If affordable, implement flight tracking and identification system on line. Strategy 4: Acquire Good Listening Skills Having airport staff becoming good listeners was seen by those interviewed for case studies as being an essential part of two-way communications. The willingness of both the airport and the community to engage in effective, sincere communications was a key to success. From the community point of view, an airport's change from one way communication that was perceived as arrogant and confrontational to a style willing to work with the community and lis- ten to public opinion was critical.
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22 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations Good Listening Strategies for Success ∑ Listen carefully. ≠ Listen carefully to understand the public's perceptions, suspicions, and emotional responses, and seek to address them. Try to trouble-shoot problems. The concerns are often signifi- cant because aircraft noise is perceived to affect people's quality of life and their property values. ≠ Try to understand different perspectives and points of view. ∑ Community meetings. ≠ Make sure that the public has a forum to speak and respond that is perceived to be reason- able in terms of timing, access and locations. ≠ Assure that the perceived leadership, one who has authority, of an organization takes a lead in meeting with the public on major issues. ≠ Ask major airport user representatives to become an active part of the public involvement process. Pilots, airline representatives and air traffic controllers are often perceived as hav- ing more credibility than airport staff or consultants. ≠ Non-interactive meetings that include only presentations, without question and answer sessions, are normally not conducive to good community relations. ≠ A combination of an open house style approach with boards and stations on specific top- ics and a large group presentation with questions and answers is an effective technique. ≠ Hire professional facilitators for public meetings where there are presentations with question and answer sessions. Don't use airport staff as facilitators at controversial meetings ≠ they are often perceived as biased. Principal Characteristics of Most Frequently Used Public Venues The communication of information about airport activities that may affect noise conditions, as well as the receipt of information about noise impacts from the public is an ongoing process. There are many different methods to inform or engage with the audiences identified in the public involvement program. The following section highlights the principal characteristics of the seven most frequently used structures for public involvement. Open House ∑ The one-to-one conversations that occur during an open house can help build trust and estab- lish a rapport between citizens and project staff. ∑ An informal, neutral setting will keep officials and the public relaxed and make communica- tions smoother. ∑ Citizens and staff can find out more about all viewpoints if public interest groups, civic orga- nizations, agency officials, and facility staff are present at the session. Workshops ∑ Workshops provide more information to the public than is possible through fact sheets or other written materials. ∑ Workshops have proven successful in familiarizing citizens with key technical terms and con- cepts before a formal public meeting. ∑ Workshops also allow two-way communication, making them particularly good for reaching opinion leaders, interest group leaders, and the affected public. ∑ If only a limited number are held, workshops can reach only a small segment of the affected population. ∑ When planning a workshop, one should make sure that it is announced in local newspapers, to help ensure that it will be well-attended. In addition, it may be helpful to specifically invite all residents who have expressed an interest in the airport's noise conditions.
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Community Engagement Strategies and Techniques 23 Public Meeting ∑ The primary benefit of informal meetings is that they allow two-way interaction between citi- zens and local officials, and actively promote public participation. ∑ Informal meetings also may diffuse any tension between stakeholders. ∑ Some groups may perceive any effort to restrict the number of attendees as a "divide and con- quer" tactic to prevent large groups from exerting influence on potential actions and to exclude certain individuals or groups. One way to prevent this perception is to hold informal meetings with those organizations or individuals who express concern about being left out of the process. ∑ Keep a written record of the informal discussions and make it available upon request or include it in the information repository. ∑ Provide an opportunity to submit written questions and comments for individuals who are unable to attend the meeting. Focus Groups ∑ Focus groups allow the sponsor to obtain in-depth reactions to issues. ∑ When conducted early, they can help to outline the public participation plan and give an indi- cation of how the general public will react to certain noise issues or alternatives. ∑ The reactions of a focus group cannot, in all cases, be counted on to represent the greater community. ∑ Some people may perceive focus groups as an effort to manipulate the public. Community Advisory Group (CAG) ∑ CAGs can increase active community participation and provide a voice for affected commu- nity members and groups. ∑ They promote direct, two-way communication among the community and the facility and can highlight the airport's commitment to inclusive stakeholder input. ∑ The CAG may be structured so that members represent not only the public, but also airport users and agency officials, with the intent of providing broader understanding of issues and constraints associated with noise compatibility management. ∑ CAGs can be time and resource intensive. CAGs that do not accurately reflect or account for public concerns may lose support in the community. ∑ The mission and responsibilities of the CAG must be made clear from the start. Forming a CAG does not necessarily mean that there will be universal agreement. Nor does having a CAG mean there will be no controversy. ∑ Provide meaningful incentives to work together, such as being jointly accountable to an offi- cial body, and having a commitment for use of the group product. ∑ Use CAGs only when there is an ability to implement their results. Don't waste people's time. Give ownership and responsibility to all the group members. ∑ Begin taking actions under local control as soon as practical. ∑ Develop an approach to training new or replacement members. Roundtables and Working Groups ∑ A roundtable or working group gives public and community representatives a place to express their issues and work out problems. ∑ Carefully select airport spokespersons and key negotiators for their ability to deal calmly with sensitive issues and personal sensitivities within the community; involve top management. ∑ Understand the role of elected officials in acting and speaking for their constituents. Elected officials are valuable for big picture thinking, creativity, and are capable of seeking consensus and making community decisions. Their disadvantage is their continuity is subject to their electability.
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24 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations ∑ Involve airport user groups as valuable participants; they need to define their role and param- eters and be willing to invest time, key personnel and resources. ∑ Seek rational community leadership who can participate in a dialogue. People with narrow inter- ests, with no ability to give and take do not contribute to effective engagement or solutions. ∑ Involve the FAA: Keep them involved by not allowing the focus to be on complaints. Identify how the airport can help them with studies and get local FAA staff to take ownership of study outcomes. Clarify FAA roles before any study starts. ∑ Include representatives of any organized opposition; this may not be easy, but will be per- ceived as inclusive and fair. ∑ Select a strong leader. The most effective group leader is someone everyone can respect; who can keep order in an effective diplomatic way; who can keep the meeting moving on a pre-set agenda; and is familiar with the material. ∑ Set up ground rules: ≠ Decide how meetings will be run and how frequently they will be scheduled. ≠ Define member responsibilities. ≠ Determine how group decisions will be made. ≠ Agree on how to handle disagreements and disruptions. Public Hearing ∑ Public Hearings are normally infrequent and targeted to a specific purpose required under local, state, or federal law. "On the record" comments are received from any individual or agency that desires to take an official position on a project action. They are often profession- ally facilitated and nearly always have an official transcript of proceedings completed. ∑ The primary benefit of formal public hearings is that they allow comments to be made "on the record" that must be considered during final evaluation of the proposed project actions. ∑ Formal hearings also may increase tension between stakeholders. ∑ Some groups may perceive any effort to restrict the time allowed to attendees as a tactic to pre- vent large groups from exerting influence on potential actions and to exclude certain individ- uals or groups. ∑ A formal written record of comments and responses to them is prepared and made available upon request or included in the information repository. ∑ Provide an opportunity to submit written questions and comments for individuals who are unable to attend the hearing. Strategy 5: Develop Quality, Rather Than Quantity Information All airports interviewed for this study, as well as reviews of related literature, have emphasized the need to provide the community with accurate, clear, timely, and relevant data related to noise issues. Interactive techniques (where the public contributes or participates in a process) build trust and support. Action Not Tools The non-airport groups that showed the most pride and loyalty to their noise advisory group Seen As Important and to their airport's approach were those that could point out specific accomplishments, based "The techniques, like on jointly derived information. These ranged from helping to handle difficult complaints and the roving van and the revise complaint forms, to working on the master plan to testifying before Congress. One respon- audio visuals, are just dent specifically said that people feel better when they do things themselves because it opens up a tools. What the airport does with the results dialogue. (like flight tracking), Good techniques/tools are important but not as important as good staff. As one non-airport how they present the information, and then source put it, the techniques, like the roving van and the audio visuals, are just tools. What the air- what they do about it port does with the results (like flight tracking), how they present the information, and then what is what is important." they do about it is what is important. Another non-airport source suggested that good staff would act as "ombudsmen" and really have the ability to do something.
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Community Engagement Strategies and Techniques 25 Quality Information Strategies for Success ∑ Use data to build trust and manage expectations: be open, direct, and stick to credible infor- mation. Do not hesitate to give out as much information as laws allow. Make sure people understand what can and cannot be provided and then follow through on promises. ∑ Address perceptions as well as reality. ∑ Provide basic education about aircraft noise, including what an airport can and cannot control. ∑ Select spokespersons and negotiators for their ability to be sensitive to community concerns. ∑ Use the web and make it user friendly; develop tools to help people understand noise; include web-based flight tracking if warranted. Strategy 6: Build Lasting Relationships and Establish Trust Too often airports are surprised with a lawsuit or an angry crowd that appears at a public meet- ing. Airport staff persons then often wish they had already established a good, long-term relation- ship with the public. The time to develop that relationship is much, much earlier. Trust is the key to a successful long-term non-adversarial relationship with community groups that continues to function well even when there is fundamental disagreement. Trust was fre- quently mentioned as a goal by both airport and non-airport sources. Non-airport sources, involved in such a relationship of a decade or more duration, rated them very highly. Airports, with some exceptions, tended to be more skeptical about the community, perhaps implying lack of trust in the community. Differing Perspectives to Overcome Trust was frequently mentioned as a goal by both airport and non-airport sources. Non-airport sources, involved in such a relationship of a decade or more duration, rated them very highly. Air- ports, with some exceptions, tended to be more skeptical about the community, perhaps implying lack of trust in the community. To build trust, two-way communication (engagement) is essential. Engagement fosters enthusiasm and excitement about best planning practices, and involves the public in impor- tant policy considerations. Engagement advances the airport staff's credibility and contributes to an atmosphere of trust. The public feels more as if they are part of the solution, rather than as if they were being manipulated through a series of required steps to accomplish a program requirement. Strategies for Successful Relationship Building ∑ Build a long-term relationship based on trust that allows both sides to work through difficult issues. ∑ Promote communication by working interactively with one or more organized groups, involv- ing them as partners in pursuit of mutual goals. ∑ Present the facts clearly and honestly, including designing websites that can actually be used by the community to both learn and develop their own analysis. ∑ Demonstrate ways the public can consider the noise issues and investigate applications to reduce the noise impacts. Strategy 7: Manage Community Expectations Through Transparency Public mistrust of the airport and its motives is at the foundation of most airport conflicts. Trust is the key to a long-term, non-adversarial relationship with community groups and trust requires proactive involvement with the public and interest group by using interactive techniques. A singular focus on educating the public will not build trust-based relationships.
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26 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations Transparency is Critical to Building Trust Consistent openness and truthfulness, demonstrated by telling people what can be told, as soon as it is known, in a transparent planning process, builds lasting trust. When groups have something important at stake they look to an organization's leader for clues on its approach and as the ultimate authority on decisions and conflict resolution. The presence of airport upper management brings decision makers from other organizations to the table and can help in the resolution of issues. Their interaction sets the tone for other staff involved in airport noise issues. Strategies for Managing Community Expectations for Success ∑ Encourage a transparent process through dissemination and sharing of information related to short-term and long-term airport activities and goals. Information should be lay-friendly to prevent perceptions that there is something to hide. ∑ Preclude unrealistic public expectations by educating the community about what is feasible and what the airport can and cannot control. ∑ Use "good" two-way interactive communications techniques by: ≠ Putting senior leadership out front by proactively seeking opportunities to attend neigh- borhood or business meetings. Also, have leadership be in attendance and have a lead role at airport public meetings or public hearings. ≠ Using strong graphics to deliver the message in visual presentations, web sites, and newsletters, as well as factual data that illustrate issues through charts, graphs, images and video clips. ∑ Develop a strategy/protocol for handling complaints. ≠ Include a person the public can talk to, and a web based comment or complaint system as part of communications. ≠ Make it a priority to talk to people and get back to them in a timely manner on questions or complaints. ≠ Analyze complaints in terms of who is complaining and how frequently. Seek out the real reasons for the complaint. Determine if the complaint is legitimate, is a reactionary response to another airport project, or other. Get to know high profile complainers one-on-one. ∑ Embrace the media. ≠ Do not ignore or try to hide from the media. ≠ Do not let the public first find out about the airport's major plans in a media exposŤ or by sending a letter telling the neighbors what has already been decided. Strategy 8: Address Emotional Feelings and Do Hard Things It is difficult, but not impossible, to earn trust when an emotional issue is involved. Most airport respondents and some non-airport respondents have dealt with angry people. They understand that often the causes are legitimate but not necessarily able to be fixed. Their approach generally is to calmly diffuse anger, educate, and to do something about the problem if possible. A number of respondents judge themselves to be successful at handling angry people, if not entirely successful at deterring them from calling again with the same complaint. Strategies for Doing Hard Things ∑ On issues that may become controversial, identify the widest possible group who might be affected and consider how they might be involved or addressed early in the communications planning process. ∑ Involve groups at the very beginning of a planning process to get buy-in before positions have hardened. At that point, really listening, determining what is feasible to do, and engaging with the public to help put a plan together can build long term relationships.