Tom Morrison and Annabel John joined the Place North West Podcast to discuss all things consultations.

The conversation went through the do’s, the don’ts, tips on best practice, and how our work with HyNet provided huge consultation returns.

But perhaps most importantly, they both explained why focusing on engagement rather than the consultation process is far more important for people looking to develop proposals.

What is consultation?

As Annabel explains in the pod, consultation is a process that involves getting feedback from the public on a proposal. This feedback is then used to shape the design process. Put simply, it allows people to ‘have their say’ on what a proposal should look like.

Often consultations are statutory, or at least mandatory, and therefore required to happen before any proposals can be delivered.

But consultations are only successful if people engage with them. Without feedback from the people you want opinions from, proposals cannot be shaped effectively which can lead to problems further down the road.

Engage, Engage, Engage

The key to this, is engagement.

Any consultation, be it for a development, a policy, or a change of work practice, needs to generate enough truly meaningful feedback in order it to be effective. Therefore, engaging audiences is vital.

As Tom points out, “without engaging people, there is no point in consulting.”

But how do you drive engagement? Firstly, Annabel suggests looking outside of your scope and identifying audiences that might take an interest in your plans but who may not directly be impacted.

Often there will be interest groups, or organisations with compatible aims that can be used to generate helpful feedback and insight, which can improve proposals. Utilising these stakeholder groups can be invaluable in achieving community buy-in and delivering long lasting plans.

Elsewhere, Tom advocates the use of video and social media. Video and animation in particular can take complex topics and break them down into an easy-to-understand way, allowing people to build a better understanding of your ambitions, and therefore more likely to provide meaningful and useful feedback.

Ultimately, making sure you’re speaking to people in a way that generates a genuine two-way dialogue and encourages thoughts and opinion to be shared is vital to success. Without engagement, consultations simply won’t work and a huge opportunity to build community and stakeholder support will be missed.

Why not listen and let us know your thoughts?

In the true spirit of consultation, why not have a listen to the podcast and let us know what you think?

As Tom and Annabel explain, Copper works with clients from across the public and private sectors and have helped organisations on a variety of engagement and consultation strategies.

If there’s any particular issue you’d like to explore or get more information on, get in touch with Tom on