NPS arrowhead
Reaching Out, Reaching In
A Guide to Creating Effective Public Participation
for State Historic Preservation Programs

Barry R. Lawson, Ellen P. Ryan, and Rebecca Bartlett Hutchison
Web Edition 2002 (originally published in 1993)

Reaching Out,
Reaching In

Table of Contents

A Note on the Authors

Section 1. Reaching Out
Section 2. Preservation Vision 2000
Section 3. Reaching In

Sources in Public Participation


Return to.....
Public Participation Home

Preservation Planning Home

HPS Home  

Privacy Notice
Disclaimer, Liability, & Ownership Notice
SLHR 2002

Section 1 -- Reaching Out
Creating Viable Public Participation Programs

Chart 1
A Guide to the Use of Selected
Information Dissemination Methods


Purposes &

Disadvantages &

Example of
Effective Use

Public Notices
Press Releases
Concise and time-sensitive announcements of activities, decisions. By using the print and broadcast media, expand coverage to broader audience than with a mailing list. Run the risk that not everyone who needs the information will see or hear it. Nothing beats personal mail (or contact) for getting peopleís attention. To announce the time, date, and place of a public meeting; to inform of staff changes, availability or receipt of special funding. An advance call to media can increase the chances for its use and follow-up articles.
Fact Sheets
Information on a specific issue or topic. Can be handy for recipient in focusing attention and understanding complex issues. Failure to be concise, relevant, and accurate can be costly in terms of later need to correct mistakes, wrong impressions. To describe a new program initiative and for summarizing details of a historic property.
Newsletters Cost-effective method of keeping your constituencies regularly informed of your program and progress. Requires time to prepare and edit; must be realistic about commitment to produce on a regular basis. A quarterly or semi-annual issue can cover staffing, initiatives, commentaries, survey results, news from other organizations.
Newspaper Articles
Op-Ed Pieces
Reach a large audience quickly. Permits a thorough discussion of an important issue, a rebuttal to (or support for) anotherís position or statement. Must be well written and to the point. Will be read by many who know little about your program, so provide background to give adequate context for readers. Bring broader public attention to an important issue. Ideal way to handle misunderstanding or rumor, or to get your position on record.
Meeting Handouts Support material for meeting attendees. Disseminate prior to meeting to prepare people for issue discussion at meeting. If lengthy, can be distracting to people during meeting. Organize material to be easily referred to during meeting. Reminder of topics discussed. Minimize questions. Provide audience with duplicates of overheads used in meeting.
Open Houses
Forum for productive dialogue in groups or one-on-one discussions. Combined with displays or audio-visuals, can be effective in obtaining advice, response. Requires planning and commitment to interact personally with people. Provide facilitators for group discussions and process for recording opinion and comment. Ideal for enhancing your image as an approachable, outgoing, and friendly organization. Great for building personal relationships with friends and foes.
Public Meeting Face-to-face opportunity to present information and to receive comments and questions. Provides "event" to focus peopleís and the mediaís attention. Large public meeting overrated for soliciting discussion and personal interaction. Can induce frustration when not everyone gets a chance to be heard. Alternative for presenting plans for a new project or results of a particular program, but only when information about the topic has been circulated prior to the meeting.

Slide and Audio-visual Presentations

Vivid examples help to describe details, provide content, and to entertain. Good supplement to oral presentation. Should be professionally prepared or run risk of sacrificing your image. Preview for relevance, tone, and time. Wonderful for presenting visual aspects of historic preservation to a public group. Slides, films, and graphic illustrations reinforce peopleís ideas about properties.
Speakersí Bureau "Expert" to discuss and explain issues and topics of interest to special audience. Easily dispatched upon request. Requires preparation, practice, and ways to identify person(s) to serve in this role. Risk of losing control of content. To describe aspects of the historic preservation program by using advisory group members and members of staff.
Press or Legislative Briefings Focused opportunity to present issues of importance to you and to respond to questions of importance to these audiences. Topic must be judged to be relevant and important to these special audiences. Requires preparation and practice for responding to likely questions. Excellent for drawing attention to critical issues for which you desire elected official support and action, or on which public support is necessary.
Field Trip On-the-spot understanding of issue or value of a historic resource. Lends atmosphere for project relevance. Must be planned in advance, and is limited by the number of people who can participate effectively. Effective adjunct to a meeting, workshop, or open house.
Cable TV, Radio Opportunity to reach a larger audience. Community cable systems look for programming possibilities. Radio may permit call in questions and responses. You lose some control of your audience, and the quality of some cable productions are not high yet, but the future promises improvements. Cable coverage of a public meeting, and radio talk shows to publicize initiative or to address potential controversial issues.
World Wide Web
Reaches a very large audience. Opportunity for on-line public input or dialogue in "chat rooms." Many donít have access to the Internet. Members of the public review or download copy of draft plan, or submit on-line comments on the draft plan that is available on the web site.

[Return to Section 1 text]