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Approach to offline channels

In parallel with the plan to use online channels, change sponsors should think about which offline means of communication will be most impactful for promoting the consultation to their target audiences.

Whereas online engagement can help gain broad reach in a cost-effective way, as well as promote the consultation among specific groups, offline approaches can also help to focus the approach and target certain stakeholders based on their individual needs.

Each approach has its own benefits, so it is worth assessing each method on its own merits and according to your needs.

A table analysis can be helpful in assessing and identifying the impact of the desired channel, helping to recognise which methods would be most suitable for the proposed audience.

For this approach we have included a series of methods incorporating printed promotional materials, media coverage, community outreach and advertising, although change sponsors should feel free to add in additional communication methods.

Download offline channels table

Public Events

Running events are a positive way to inform and engage audiences about the proposals and their noise impacts. There are several methods that can be adopted, and each has its own strengths and weakness. Before planning an event, consider what you are trying to achieve with it ie is the event mainly intended to inform people about the proposals or are you actively seeking to receive and capture feedback? Events should also be tailored to the audience that you are engaging with, be held in accessible venues and be scheduled at times and with sufficient notice, to allow people to attend.

Events you will want to consider holding during your consultation period include the following:

Digital Events

What are they?

Hosting a digital event presents an opportunity to reach further afield to those people that don’t have a lot of time or can’t leave their homes.

There are a number of digital methods that can be used, from ‘Facebook Live’ events, Zoom meetings, online focus groups, to web chats, or even hosting question and answer sessions on social media. It is a quick and effective method of dealing with queries directly from people who might not want to give up a huge amount of their time. Hosting an online event is flexible, quick and can allow the consultor to try a number of different methods.

  • Targets people that might not respond to more traditional methods
  • Can reach people from multiple locations
  • There is minimal cost involved
  • Useful for those who are unable to leave their homes as people can participate from anywhere as long as they have a mobile phone or device
  • Less intimidating to raise questions online compared to more public forums
  • Provides option to show visual content, such as images or videos, that help explain the proposals
  • Excludes those that don’t have internet access
  • Requires at least basic technological skills for people to take part
  • Some sessions might require moderators so extra resource might be needed

Focus Groups

What are they?

Focus groups are a useful method to hear the opinions of people that might not usually be as forthcoming as others with their views. They can be built around a small number of people giving their general views on the proposals or could be tailored for a specific purpose eg to address the noise impacts on a particular area.

They are usually run by an independent facilitator, which helps to create a neutral and open environment. Small incentives can be used to encourage new stakeholders to attend and contribute but need not always be.

  • Collects views from people who aren’t usually engaged thereby offering different perspectives
  • Enables specific audiences to be targeted so that gaps in audience coverage can be overcome (eg specific communities or protected characteristics groups)
  • Encourages active discussion in an open environment
  • Can often draw out supportive and proactive views as attendees view themselves as providing key feedback
  • Written summaries of focus groups can be submitted by the airspace change sponsor into the CAA online portal as an official consultation response
  • Does not offer a full or comprehensive representation of stakeholders’ views
  • There is a danger of opinionated or very vocal attendees influencing or leading others
  • Facilitators might not be able to fully convey technical aspect of proposals leading to confusion

Drop-in session

What are they?

Public drop-in sessions or roadshow events provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about the proposals and speak to informed members of staff. These events can take place throughout the consultation in multiple locations, as well as focused on those areas most impacted by the proposals.

This is an opportunity for the change sponsor to illustrate the proposals and their noise impacts using different tools. These can vary from easy-to-understand visuals, explanatory videos, enlarged maps, or if budget allows, noise labs. It can also give staff the opportunity to explain proposals directly and support people in giving their feedback on the proposals. 

There may also be the opportunity to access the CAA portal via a digital device at the event, providing additional support to members of the public who are not confident in using online approaches at home. There is generally an expectation that public events will be provided in some form during a consultation of this sort.

  • Accessible and well-tested method of engagement
  • Allows the sponsor to target key areas that might be impacted
  • Provides the change sponsor with a good opportunity to get out into the community
  • Provides people with an opportunity to have the proposals explained to them in person
  • Over reliance on experts to explain the more technical details. If the events are staffed with the wrong team members, then the public could easily get frustrated and feel their concerns are not being adequately addressed
  • Hosting too many events can stretch resources
  • If poorly promoted, the events might only attract a few people and prove to be a waste of time
  • Not everyone has the time to attend an event

Pop-up events

What are they?

Pop-up events are similar to roadshows but are smaller in scale and more mobile. Proposals and information can be displayed on stalls that are usually placed in public locations near a high volume of foot traffic, eg outside supermarkets or in a shopping centre.

The idea is to generate interest in the consultation with passers-by, who might not attend a more formal public event. It is a good opportunity to display any illustrative materials you have like maps or large boards. Pop-up events can be used in response to the consultation, so if a specific area or community requests an event or if you need to proactively target a particular area, they are relatively easy to arrange at short notice.

  • Interactive way of engaging with wider public
  • Cost-effective and can be arranged at short notice
  • Allows public to talk to staff and provide additional information
  • Mobile & visible
  • Weather dependent
  • Resource needed from within the team, especially from technical staff

Public Hearings

What are they?

Public hearings are becoming a common method of engagement as they allow the consultor to gather and consider evidence in an open and transparent way.

During a hearing, members of the public / organisation representatives are invited to present their evidence and/or feedback to a panel of decision-makers, usually facilitated by an independent chair. This process enables them to raise any specific questions or issues of concern to the people proposing the changes in full view of the public.

It is a method that encourages two-way dialogue as the setting allows for challenge and response in a way that a written testimony does not.

For the consultor, it is a way to publicly correct any misleading claims that often surface during consultations and help the public understand why the proposals have been produced.

  • Demonstrates that you are listening to the consultee and taking feedback on board
  • Encourages two-way conversation between the people that are going to be impacted and those proposing the change
  • All conversation and debate are recorded therefore increasing the transparency of the process
  • Helps to increase public understanding of the proposals and clarify any misleading claims
  • Allows you to demonstrate that you are keen to try new ways of working with impacted communities
  • Can help empower people to think they are having an impact on the decision
  • Could prove to be quite costly and time-consuming during a busy consultation period
  • Selecting members to present evidence comes with risk of bias and could be open to challenge. It might result in inviting more people to present, therefore increasing the time and cost
  • Could present an opportunity for grand-standing
  • If panel members are under-prepared, then the argument for the proposals could be undermined in a very public environment