Creating effective EIS communication and engagement

In-depth knowledge of your project, the community and your stakeholders is key to delivering effective EIS communication and engagement.

icon of thinking head with cogsThe project

It is critical to know your project inside-out. Research, understand, and develop thorough knowledge of the project. Talk to the project manager and the team, go through any designs or visualisations to understand details on hand.

You should apply the community lens and talk through with your Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) discipline leads and subject matter experts to identify potential benefits and issues for community members and landowners.

The Terms of Reference

An EIS will normally need to be prepared in accordance with the Terms of Reference or a similar requirement mechanism by the government agency that manages project evaluation and approvals. It will require a comprehensive description of the project, the potential environmental/social impacts and how the proponent proposes to avoid, minimise or mitigate/offset the potential impacts. It will usually set out community engagement and communication requirements.

It is vital to communicate to the project team the approvals process to understand the minimum requirements and include learnings in your planning.

Your community

While they may share characteristics, every community will be unique in their response to projects that impact them. Some communities will have established forums which they utilise to have conservations about things that are important to them. Others may quickly mobilise to form community action groups, or some may remain indifferent about proposed plans for their local area.

The key to setting up effective EIS communication and engagement is knowing your community. It will pay to spend some time in the community, have casual conversations with locals and listen to what’s important to them. Dial in to local groups on social media or even set-up social media listening to track sentiment. This initial research will provide an important insight which can be used for planning effective engagement.

Planning and internal governance

You should create a stakeholder engagement and communication implementation plan.

Write a comprehensive key message document including an organisational overview, project overview, major EIS topics, project milestones/timeframes, community engagement opportunities, and key community concerns.

Ensure there is a thorough review by all internal stakeholders, including corporate affairs and government relations departments where necessary. Share the plan with all internal stakeholders to inform, invite feedback, refinements and gain the necessary approvals.

Implementing communication and engagement

The key to successful engagement and communication is keeping it simple, creating tools that are interactive and tailored to your audience. The Terms of Reference will possibly have requirements to make communication accessible to everyone in the community, including addressing language and other accessibility and inclusion needs.

Provide the community members with enough notice of information and engagement sessions so they have sufficient time to organise themselves to attend. Recording feedback is vital, as is responding promptly to any questions or actions that have been taken on notice. Where possible, survey the participants about the engagement session to collect feedback on how it can be further tailored to their needs.

Connect with us

Phillips Group understands what it takes to achieve effective EIS communication and engagement. Connect with Group Executive Director, Infrastructure, Sarah McCreesh today.