Approach to online channels
As any consultation under the CAP1616 process will be hosted on the CAA’s online portal, digital tools are vital to promoting the consultation and helping people to complete the online questionnaire.
Start by considering what existing channels you have and how they can be used, before exploring what other options could be adopted.
Online engagement can enable greater reach and allow some audiences to participate who would otherwise not have engaged, but it should not replace traditional face-to-face approaches altogether. Some people do not have access to the internet and you will have to consider how best to engage these audiences (more detail on this is available here). All online approaches should therefore be planned to complement offline activity to maximise reach and impact and not be solely relied upon for reaching audiences. Offline activity also includes more methods than simply meeting face to face.
Given its widespread appeal, its ability to target different demographics, and the way it can be measured for reach and engagement, social media could form a core part of any plan and be used throughout the consultation period to raise awareness and encourage response via the CAA portal.
Change sponsors should first decide how they will use their own accounts and channels to support the consultation. Start by thinking about what each of the channels offers in terms of reach and engagement and whether that aligns with your objective before it is adopted.
Use demographic insight to determine who uses different channels, however avoid pigeon-holing different audiences into specific channels and ensure there are a range of channels available for each group. Ensure your social media channel plan is broad enough to take in the audiences you want to reach, and then make sure you have content that can be tailored and adapted appropriately.
Depending on your budget, the scale of your airspace change, and having assessed who you will reach through existing channels, you should also consider whether paid-for promotion will help you reach audiences you do not already have as followers or connections.
Crucially, do not stop at your own channels. Think about the stakeholders you have in your network, and those who could help you reach networks of people and audiences you do not already have a relationship with. This may include community and voluntary organisations, religious groups, charities or community and lobby groups who might be happy to share materials online or via their social media channels. By producing this content yourself, you are better able to determine how people hear, see and know about your consultation.
It is worth noting that responses or replies to posts cannot be accepted as part of the consultation. If you are holding discussions with stakeholders via social media, you must be clear that any interactions will not be recorded or submitted on their behalf and that they still need to complete the online questionnaire on the consultation portal.
What are the benefits of using social media channels?
- Allows for quick and direct engagement with online audiences
- Useful for raising awareness about consultation, events, reminders of opening and closing dates etc
- Can help to build relationships and allow people to engage in a conversation or allow an opportunity to clarify any queries or concerns
- Can assist in developing FAQs or clarifications
- Cost-effective as most are free to use, even if they require time and internal resource
- Can be used to target specific groups, especially people that are less visible or more seldom heard
- Will help to drive people directly to the online questionnaire
- Targeted marketing through channels such as Google optimisation / Facebook marketing can further enhance audience reach by promoting events to specific audiences
- Is easy to measure in terms of its impact and outcomes
- Good for promoting any gifs or infographics that explain the proposals or how people are impacted by noise
What are the risks of using social media channels?
- Unless given dedicated resource, social media channels may not be fully effective
- If the accounts are not managed properly, there is a risk that responses might be missed, and users left frustrated and ignored
- Misinformation can spread quickly and if not moderated could be galvanised by protest groups and used against the change sponsor
- With often limited space for posting comments or responses, some channels could restrict your ability to interact with people on more technical details of the proposals
- Expectations must be managed – users cannot directly respond to the consultation through social media, so this must be made clear
The CAA portal will host the consultation materials and questionnaire, but a change sponsor can use its own website to promote the consultation as they wish. This could provide an opportunity to use an area of the website to host information about the consultation, therefore presenting an opportunity to provide:
- Details about the proposals including any infographics or videos that help to explain the proposals or how someone might be impacted by noise
- A guide on how users can respond to the consultation as well as how to navigate the CAA portal
- Signposts for specific questions eg this information relates to flight path X, to provide feedback on this proposal please follow this link and answer question Y
The website could also be used to host additional tools or plug-ins to help promote the consultation, such as:
A tool that enables people to search for their own addresses on the website, with the results appearing on a map showing how close they are to the airport and the proposed flight paths.
How could it be used?
A postcode finder can give people a clear indication of which proposals could impact them as it could illustrate how close the flight paths come in relation to their homes. While this can make it simple for people to understand the proposals and their implications, it does require specialist technical expertise to develop, external resource will be needed, and an appropriate budget needs to be allocated towards costs. As an example, the CAA’s airspace change portal has a postcode finder that enables people to help find details of all airspace change proposals close to an address.
A timer embedded on the website showing how many weeks days, hours and minutes until the consultation closes.
How could it be used?
A straightforward plug-in that acts as a reminder to anyone viewing the proposals online as to how long they have left to respond. It could be placed at the top of the page to act as a reminder for any website visitors that the consultation is running.
A calendar providing details of each event being held throughout the consultation.
How could it be used?
An events calendar could be used to provide details such as event type, time and location or even proximity to a proposed flight path in a simple to understand format. Using a calendar instead of a long list of events might be easier for someone to digest but it is still advisable to provide a geographic list of your events.
A pop-up window that allows users to ask questions with the answers automatically supplied, from the pre-prepared consultation frequently asked questions (FAQs). ICCAN has outlined more detail about how to prepare FAQs in the Length section.
How could it be used?
Using a chatbot is an effective way of answering the most frequent enquiries that users might have about the consultation. All the answers will have already been prepared and uploaded onto the website as part of the FAQs, but it enables the process to be automated, and therefore reduce the need to manually respond to each query.
For the chatbot to be effective, sponsors must prepare likely questions and respond to them as clearly and thoroughly as possible, to satisfactorily resolve the query and avoid the need for follow-up. Using common questions and answers will help to guide the user-navigation. While this type of plug-in might be effective, it would require specialised technical expertise to ensure that it is produced to a standard that would meet users’ needs.
Videos are an engaging way to raise awareness of the consultation and present a good opportunity to create something visual that hooks someone into the topic of airspace change and noise.
They can also be shared on other digital channels, including your own and stakeholders’ websites. Informative videos could be used to better explain the proposals such as what airspace change is, how noise impacts people, or how to respond to the consultation. Videos can be expensive, so must add value and be proportionate to the change, and you must be able to justify having one as part of your consultation plan.
Before deciding to create a video, consider how impactful and relevant it might be for your target audiences, and whether it would be useful to explain the change(s) being proposed.
If you decide to create a video, ICCAN recommends following the Consultation Institute’s suggestion that it should fulfil one or more of three purposes:
- Provide people with information to reasonably understand what is being proposed and enable them to respond
- Signpost people to where they can find more information so they can make a better-informed response;
- Inform people how they can get involved with the consultation
Depending on the length of the video, it could include:
- Introduce the role of the airspace change sponsor
- Briefly explain what the consultation is about
- Who you are consulting with and why
- What you will be asking them to feedback on
- Why you are proposing the airspace change proposals and where more information can be found
- The story so far & how you’ve got to this point
- The role of the Civil Aviation Authority in CAP1616 as the decision makers
- The impacts that these changes could have on members of the public
- Timescales and what comes next
As with any supporting information, due consideration should be given to the accessibility of the video, whether it might need to be translated, or if a sign-language version needs to be produced. This will depend on your audiences and the size and scale of your consultation.
All videos should be given subtitles, as a matter of course. Not only does this make them more accessible, but people can view them when travelling and when their mobile devices are on silent.
A video should always provide details (usually at the end) on how to obtain further information and respond to the consultation.