There seem to be a good many public consultation exercises under way at the moment. Hopefully it’s a sign that the improving economy is giving organisations more confidence to invest in development schemes and community projects.

A fundamental question at the heart of several recent programmes I’ve been involved with has been: what’s the best possible form for this consultation to take?

In some cases, clients have wanted to explore this at the outset and been happy to be guided. In a couple of others, they’ve decided to take a different approach – but been persuaded to revert to better practice part-way through.

It’s clearly best to get it right from the start. So here, in brief, are my top tips for effective public consultation. I’ll go into more detail on each in future posts.

These principles are all simple common sense – but too-often neglected.

1.  Be fully prepared from day one.  Draw up a clear plan. Most importantly, prepare for the difficulties that inevitably lie ahead. Update: You can now see more on this tip here.

2.  Identify what you must do as well as what you should  i.e. any formal consultation requirements. Update: you can see more on this here.

3.  Be inclusive but focused – particularly in identifying the right consultees to engage. Update: more here.

4.  Be clear!  Too often consultations bamboozle people with jargon. Update: more on this one here.

5.  Be as accessible as possible to your consultees. But this does not necessarily mean being ‘digital by default’!  Update: more on this tip here.

6.  Set your boundaries – about what is and isn’t possible or open for debate. Update: more here.

7.  Be ready to answer queries, not just collate views – something people often overlook. Update: more here.

8.  Genuinely listen and work hard to see how consultation feedback can improve your proposals. Update: more on this here.

9.  Be transparent – about your proposals, your consultation process, the feedback you receive and what you’re doing with it.  Update: more here.

10.  Report back to consultees in an open, thorough, unbiased and timely way. An obvious point, but it’s not always done. Update: more here.


Getting all this right is more an art than a science, but the above tips hopefully give a solid framework within which to work.

Of course these are just brief maxims: I’ll go into more detail on each of these in separate posts in the near future.

Meanwhile, you can find out more here about our public consultation services.


What do you think are the best ways to run a great consultation?