Effective online consultation – part 3: responsiveness

Share on:

Click here to return to the list of articles


Online consultation has the huge benefit of being widely accessible and eliciting responses where they may not have otherwise been available. But the good consultation is two-way consultation:  encouraging a response and ignoring it does not constitute good consultation.

The following suggestions will help to create a responsive consultation, without making it too arduous:

Be as responsive as is feasible

  • Provide a means for respondents to contact a person if necessary – ideally both by email and phone.
  • Determine in advance whether you’ll interact on public forums – and if so, ensure that the role is one of facilitation, not refereeing.
  • Ensure that all those posting / responding on behalf of the consultation do so with the same understanding.
  • Respond promptly.
  • Keep registered users updated – via email, RSS, SMS or social media.

Remember that communication online is immediate and 24/7

  • Commit to regular posting. Social media posts can be scheduled via a range of dashboard applications such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
  • Keep the site fresh and up to date.
  • Check links regularly.
  • Update the site regularly.

Monitor constantly

  • Set up monitoring from Day One. This may be both automatic (for bad language / spam) but should not be exclusively so.
  • If you have to remove a post, let the individual know and give them an opportunity to replace it.
  • Avoid vetting comments as this leads to mistrust of the consultation.
  • Provide links to offline consultation, allowing respondents to take part both online and offline.

Always remember that in two-way communication, every comment deserves a response.

Penny Norton

Penny’s book Public Consultation and Community Involvement in Planning: a twenty-first century guide is published by Routledge in June 2017.  Please email Penny to receive notification of its publication.