In the complex environment of today, the public relation firms need to understand and respond to our ever-changing demands, rising expectations, and values for increasingly intrusive news media and public consultation. The focus on internal objectives is not enough, requiring outside thinking, which is a mandatory prerequisite for accomplishing the tacit acceptance of society to remain operational during a situation of crisis management.
In the disaffected political environment of today, leaders in businesses and governments are now being called to embrace the genuine public input. There is little doubt over the fact that public consultation has become a vital component of outside-in thinking. It is all about building dialogue into the process of communication to mitigate conflict, accomplishing as much consensus as required in balancing the scales of developmental-ism and protectionism.
Recently, people perceived that holding a few town hall meetings, placing some ads, distributing some literature, and being aware of upcoming issues would produce the consequence the organization wants. However, this belief is now outdated. Now, the public is concerned about what constitutes sustainable development. Unfortunately, this concern is increasing. As we get accustomed to the real environmental pressures, it is argued that most of us will feel a need to put a brake on the remorseless industrialization progress. The outcome is that a very reasonable and well-researched proposal concerning planning permission for a novel development on the green belt area’s edge may not sound so justified, especially to those people who feel that environmental degradation is threatening them.
Such a case can be traced back to 1996. In this case, a company was awaiting the confirmation of planning permission to run a low-level radioactive waste facility. Surprisingly, the campaign used for this was highly vocal, articular, and well-organized. Despite emphasizing that the type of waste stored at the facility posed absolutely no risk, the government officials, children, parents, local teachers, and human health, already working with nuclear materials and living in a catchment area of research establishments advocated that the breaking point has finally reached.
Anxiety over the perceived additional risk to the environment and their health, along with the failure on the part of the involved organization to come up with a more proactive process of public consultation during the application for planning permission, created a militant response and mistrust. The children and parents marched on the premises of the organization, under the watchful eye of newspaper reporters, radio, and local television. Although zero risks were never expected, they always wanted to get as close as possible. This rightly demonstrates the importance of public consultation during crisis management.
The organizations are finding it difficult to go down a more assertive public consultation route. To overcome this, they can try not getting their own way on almost every single issue. If the consultation becomes unsuccessful, public opinion may become divided and polarized. However, this can be addressed through active communication regarding issues, adopting a more inclusive approach in the consultation and influencing process. In fact, this should be a mandatory prerequisite if the existing fault-line between sustainable and financial success needs to be eliminated. Outside-in thinking is dependent on the ability of an organization to move away from an information flow that has a uni-directional, to a more active dialogue that takes into consideration a more extensive range of stakeholder groups. The organizations and institutions, upon which we depend to protect and provide, must run faster to accomplish consensus and resolve probable conflict about their relationship and role in society. Those failing to address the need for this kind of change may simply have their operational licenses revoked.