Online Consultation for Dummies

I am now a month into my new role as Account Executive at Consense and to say it’s been a learning curve is an understatement. 

As a young graduate with a passion for marketing, being given the opportunity to work at a full service marketing agency has felt like hitting the jackpot. I presumed that working here would satisfy my passion for marketing, what I didn’t bargain for was for a whole new passion for renewable energy and community planning. 

Having studied History of Art, I can hold my hands up and say I have never been a brain-box at science. However, during my time at Consense, it is hard not to join in on the office enthusiasm. It is refreshing working with people who are not only providing a service, but are also passionate about the development and outcomes of both community and renewable energy planning applications.  I’ve begun to understand the important role both play for our future, and how community consultation helps with the process.

Obviously I did research prior to my role and understood the core of Consense - a community engagement service that specialises in online consultation.  What I didn’t realise was that it is much much more than that. This is what I’ve learned so far…

Why is community consultation important?

In an age where over 80% of the population is online, it is important to harness the web to consult and reach those you normally wouldn’t.  In this new era of ‘bottom up’ planning (I learned that here), where communities are being encouraged to shape local plans, it is important to consult the public. Community consultation is essentially a two-way communication, which offers opportunities for both sides of the debate to get involved with innovative and tried-and-tested engagement practices. Making the effort to research your community and engage with people in innovative ways, will almost always create positive reactions.  All in all, consultation is crucial to producing a solid application and meeting the requirements of the ‘Localism Bill’. It ensures planning applications are given the best chance.

 What I’ve learned so far?

  • Variety is good. There are so many different aspects of marketing communications, and it’s important to adopt a mix of channels to consult. Luckily Consense does just this with its mix of online and offline consultation.
  • A good relationship is key! I’ve learned that one of the main reasons Consense is successful at consultation is because the relationships between the agency and their clients are strong. Clients are able to have communication with their account handlers throughout the day and discuss any queries/concerns they may have.
  • A good team is at the core of Consense success. A mix of interactive and social professionals with key expertise ensures the success of projects; a developer + a designer + a project manager = dream team.
  • You need to be flexible. One of the quickest things I’ve needed to learn as Account Executive is the ability to respond and evolve as necessary during the consultation process. Luckily, as far as I have seen we are always able to meet the timescales, demands and changes of our clients. 
  • And lastly, the importance of communication! Communication is the essence of consultation; communicating with the public ensures planning applications are given the best chance possible to succeed.

So far, working at Consense has been both exciting and challenging. Working for an agency provides me with the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and with a number of different people. It is refreshing to be part of a team who manages all aspects of a campaign, including final reporting on the process and its outcomes.  The benefits of working with an enthusiastic and successful team who all play a vital part in the consultation is that you come to genuinely care about the consultation process.

For someone who has never worked for an online consultation company before, I didn’t think that 4 weeks in I’d be scouring the internet for news on wind turbines and community planning in my spare time. The energy and passion at Consense is infectious, and I’m looking forward to the months ahead. 



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