Developing a digital public involvement toolbox in the era of COVID-19 - DOWL



Developing a digital public involvement toolbox in the era of COVID-19

By now, most Americans are hunkering down or sheltering in place, and many of us are working from home. This poses some unique challenges, especially as critical infrastructure projects move forward. In this unprecedented time of social distancing and working from home, it can be challenging to adapt public involvement processes to reach citizens and stakeholders, but the reality is that these processes still need to happen.

That’s where the internet comes in. DOWL assists many of our clients with PI programs and other outreach, and we’re working on bolstering our arsenal of digital tools so we can keep reaching people even when they’re at home. Below, we’ve compiled some of the tools we’re using.

Day-to-Day Tools

  • Social Media — Step aside, email; social media is the new cornerstone of online communications, and it’s time to use the various social media channels like never before. Aside from the known players like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, other platforms like Nextdoor offer new and innovative ways to reach people in your region. And because these networks function well across mobile and desktop, they’re a great way to disseminate multimedia content like graphics and videos.
    • Examples of the content we’re producing:
      • Graphic-centric posts and infographics
      • A wide range of video formats, including:
        • Simple videos created with just a voiceover and PowerPoint
        • Graphic animations
        • Pre-recorded virtual meetings
    • Geographically targeted ads, which are a cost-effective way to reach exactly the people you want to reach online
  • Constant Contact/Mailchimp — Stay in contact via project-branded emails with members of the public who have signed up for email updates. Text messaging options are also available.
  • Flipbook — Create online-friendly flipbook brochures and project literature.
  • Websites — In addition to traditional project websites, we are developing a new virtual portal for project meetings and pre-bid tours built on
  • Local Radio — Advertise upcoming virtual meetings and ways to stay connected with projects, especially in rural areas where online tools are less reliable.

Construction Updates

  • Travel Advisory Applications — Working with our local agencies, we can get applicable project messages on location-specific apps for the public.
    • Some regional examples:
      • 511Info (Alaska DOT&PF)
      • TripCheck (Oregon Department of Transportation)
      • MDTTravelInfo (Montana Department of Transportation)
  • Text Updates — Allows the public to sign up for live text messages regarding a project and/or sign up for the project newsletter.

Virtual Meetings and Stakeholder Involvement Tools

  • Social Pinpoint — This tool allows project teams to create surveys, forums, and interactive maps for the general public to use as a standalone tool or to supplement virtual meetings.
  • Virtual meetings — Use various platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, and Facebook/Instagram Live, to host online meetings and communicate project information directly to stakeholders

If you’re looking for help implementing these tools or developing a digital-first PI plan for your project, we’re here to help!

Get in touch via, or call 800.478.DOWL, and ask for Katie Conway, Lisa Olmsted, Jen Payne, or Rachel Steer.