Crucial, however not a guarantee for acceptance, are public participation and transparent dialogue – DPRG highlights the topic of "Acceptance through communication" at TakeOff 2018 in Berlin.
How can communication encourage agreement for controversial projects and strengthen the public’s approval? Can we succeed in getting people interested in innovation and projects? What measures does it take to gain approval in the public sphere and win them over when it comes to infrastructure projects?
These and other questions were the focus of this year's DPRG TakeOff event held on 26 January in Berlin. Around 300 representatives from corporate communications departments, agencies, associations, media companies and from science met for a whole day to examine the issue of “Acceptance through communication”. The exchange of experiences and ideas was paramount for our public communications team.
Do infrastructure projects have any kind of chance of acceptance today?
There was plenty of opportunity to discuss this: As part of different panels, discussions and platforms of the DPRG working groups, the communicators debated the various facets and areas of activity of "Acceptance communication". Dr. Felix Krebber, consultant at Lautenbach Sass, a Frankfurt-based corporate consultancy for communication, posed a provocative question at the beginning of his keynote address: Can acceptance for controversial projects be reached at all nowadays, since angry citizens, haters and fake news, both online as well as offline, are often successful in helping to form the public’s opinion by banging the polemic drum?
People demand involvement as a matter of course
Our conviction: A fair balance between loudly articulated individual interests and the opinions of an often silent majority is also a political task which requires not only tact, but also skilful communication. We, as communicators, see this as a great responsibility. We would answer Dr. Krebber’s question as to whether acceptance through communication is even achievable with a resounding “yes". On closer inspection, however: Communication can achieve more than just acceptance.
The key to a fair balance of interests lies in the transparent involvement of relevant stakeholders in important decisions on infrastructure projects. Unlike a few years ago, involvement is demanded by citizens and more and more considered as a matter of course. This is also confirmed by the Heads of Corporate Communications at Deutsche Bahn or at Munich airport in their discussion contributions.
Many minds, lots of impulses: Use public dialogue as a think tank!
That is why it is important that companies and management don’t allow haters and angry citizens to remain at the wheel, and instead actively inform themselves, conduct dialogues and involve people. Information and involvement are not just a tedious compulsory exercise.
We advise companies and authorities to have their sights set on the benefits of participation schemes: Those who inform and involve at an early stage are not only more likely to gain consent, but can also use the collective intelligence of the people involved. Because where many people think and speak together, this also leads to new ideas and fresh impulses which may appeal to the general public rather than plans and projects penned by companies or the administration. When project managers are open to ideas of the stakeholders involved, they reap more than just "Acceptance through communication".
Our public communications experts are getting involved
This is not the end of this topic for DPRG, we won’t just be examining it during the TakeOff event 2018. Throughout the course of the year, a working group will seek to institutionalise the discourse and the development of ideas on the topic of acceptance communication. The working group expect groundbreaking ideas to come from the lively exchange during TakeOff 2018 and the multi-faceted challenges that have been discussed here. It will be interesting in any case, because the citizens' communications team from Kaltwasser Kommunikation will also be at the table.
Our service: Communication with citizens
Our reference: Citizen communication for Bayernwerk AG
Impressions from TakeOff 2018: DPRG’s image gallery