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OCR for page 85
Case Studies in Airport/Stakeholder Communication 85 Maintain two-way communication. The Leepers quote K. Fearn-Banks in a 2002 book Crisis Communications (p. 3) as saying, "Companies with ongoing two-way communications often avoid crises or endure crises of shorter duration or of lesser magnitude". (14, p. 140) Build a relationship of trust based on an open and honest sharing of information. The Leep- ers quote D. Hale in a 2002 article entitled Public Relations in Higher Education: A retrospec- tive and forecast (pp. 5-6), "The success of our institutions is rooted in the relationships we build with our key publics. And those relationships are built on trust, on developing a mutu- ally beneficial relationship based on an honest and open sharing of information". (14, p. 140) As demonstrated by UMKC, trust can be lost very quickly (2 weeks) and take a very long time to regain (2 years). Monitor, communicate, and make decisions with key public. As the Leepers say, "The reali- ties are that unless organizations concern themselves with monitoring, communicating, and making decisions with key publics in the community, problems may result." (14, p. 140) Do not ignore or try to hide from the media. When there are major changes in operations or land use planned, do not just let the media discover it but develop a good proactive approach that considers the potential reaction of the community. Assure that the perceived leadership of an organization, the one who has authority, takes a lead in meeting with the public on major issues. Make sure that the public has a forum to speak and respond that is perceived as reasonable in terms of timing, access and location. Communication Techniques That UMKC Chose to Avoid in the Future One-way communications do not work. According to the Leepers, "From a public relations perspective, an organization may no longer be able to function effectively when communica- tion is basically one way and a community relationship is not fostered." (14, p. 131) Do not let the public first find out about the institution's major plans in the media or by a letter telling them what has already been decided. Assign sensitive and public service oriented spokespersons. Conclusions The literature reviews and case studies illustrate a range of public communication approaches and what lessons airports and other industries have learned that are applicable to airport situa- tions. The overwhelming message from both the literature review and from the case studies is that two-way communication with neighboring communities is essential and has become a "best practice" across public service industries. The findings are: Airport staffs as a whole are busy, confined by regulations, and focused on airport operations. They view dealing with the community affected by noise as a necessary nuisance, but often not important enough to warrant development of an ongoing relationship. Other industries recognize that the insertion of public input into the early assessment of trans- portation or environmental needs and solutions is a key factor in decision making. Other industries concluded that best practices require giving citizens, industry, environmen- tal groups, and academics much greater roles in environmental decision-making. Building trust with the community is fundamental to ensuring an effective working relationship. Three primary factors that lead to airport success in changing crisis to resolution are: 1) use of a comprehensive working group process that involves the community, users, and the air- port in developing a solution; 2) willingness of the major users to invest time and resources in solutions and to be open to ideas; and 3) creative involvement of senior airport management and local elected officials who take ownership of the development and implementation of cre- ative solutions.

OCR for page 85
86 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations Planning ahead and developing a good interactive relationship with the community before there is a crisis is critical. A public relations crisis can develop very quickly and be made much worse if management does not take an intelligent lead. These crises can be alleviated if there is a pre- existing atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation between the airport and its neighbors. There are not always easy and fast solutions to solving noise issues. The themes among the literature reviews and case studies all are common and the lessons learned are similar. The following is a consolidated list of themes and lessons from the literature reviews and airport case studies. Airport Culture: The comprehensive, interactive approach to public involvement requires a cultural change from the top down, especially as the aviation industry has no strong regulatory mandates to require interactive engagement. Improve Relationships Before Crisis: Build a relationship before there is a crisis. Make com- munication mean constructive involvement and building trust. Approach people well in advance of change do not present a plan or process as a completed effort. Listening: Being a good listener is an essential part of two-way communications. Listen care- fully and understand what the community's perceptions, suspicions, and emotional responses are and address them forthrightly. Roundtables and Working Groups: A roundtable or working group gives public and com- munity 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. Include representatives of any organized opposition. Give ownership of the process and responsibility for its results to all the group members. Data: Provide the community with good, understandable, timely, and relevant data related to noise issues. Use data to build trust and reconcile expectations: be open and direct. Use credi- ble information. 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. One size does not fit all sit- uations. Design effective community meetings and make sure that the public has a forum to speak and respond that is perceived as reasonable in terms of timing, access and location. Evaluation Techniques: Determine what impacts a person's feeling about noise and what the best method of communication is to address the specific concerns about their issues.