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Community Engagement Strategies and Techniques 27 For small airports, it may be more beneficial to employ staff skilled in community and public relations to deal with the noise program than to hire experts with technical skills. Technical skills in aviation can be learned, but it is hard to teach an aviation expert community relations. Strategy 9: Decide When Help Is Needed It often is useful to retain professional assistance in noise planning, public relations, and communications to work through a planning process or development program that has a foreseeable conclusion. Professional assistance offers broader experience through work at many airports having many different issues and may bring greater focused skills to a process than staff experts. When the noise management program is continuing, it is normally more reasonable to hire staff to maintain a communications and noise program than to seek out- side assistance. What Your Help Should Know Assure that any consultant team understands community concerns and how to address them. Assure that any consultant selected is willing to have a very open interactive approach to work- ing with the public and involve them early in the process. Consider using the consultant as an expert and advisor to a combined city/user/community work group. When and How Is it Best to Start? The selection of specific tools and approaches for any public communications program is dependent upon factors that include cost, demands on staff time, level of skills needed, past expe- rience, and staff resources. As a program is developed, decisions will need to be made based upon the complexity of the subject matter and its special needs, within the constraints of available resources. What level of funding is available for this effort? What mix of tools should be used to be effective, and are they affordable? Is there sufficient time to plan and execute the level of program desired? Is assistance available? If a high-end program cannot be provided, then what activities are adequate for the needs of the project? This section includes two resources: A self-assessment tool provides a baseline assessment of an airport's community engagement program. An implementation steps matrix provides an implementation framework for planning, informing and engaging the public regarding aircraft noise issues. Self-Assessment Tool The self-assessment tool should be used as a guide to help airport management complete a quick analysis of the current efforts to reach out to the community and to strategize planning to inform and engage the public regarding aircraft noise issues. It includes questions to help air- port management determine how well their airport incorporates best practices in communica- tions. Each question should be considered thoroughly and honestly to achieve the most meaningful results. Negative responses will identify areas where improvement may be appropriate. A