Updated: Aug 18
Your planning project probably doesn’t need its own website. At MUSE Community + Design, we believe in building on what’s already happening in the communities where we work, and that includes our approach to communication and outreach. Project-specific websites remain common requests for projects of all scales. As our industry strives to “meet people where they are”, we can rethink communications strategies to better connect with key stakeholders and community members and keep our energy and budgets focused on the work of planning.
Your website is enough.
Your constituents and stakeholders are already in the habit of checking your municipality or agency website for the information they need. Leverage and reinforce your website as the primary information hub by adding a project page to your website with content the consultant team develops, including regular updates. Your project needs a comprehensive digital hub for information about the planning process, and the good news is you already have that in place!
This holds true even for more complex projects where there may be multiple entities serving as the “client”. MUSE is working with the Rogers Park Business Alliance (RPBA), an economic development organization for a Chicago neighborhood, and the City of Evanston to develop a corridor plan for Howard Street, which is the boundary between Chicago and Evanston. There is a project page on both RPBA’s and the City of Evanston’s websites, with mirrored content provided by our team.
Social media is the connection point.
Your project team is likely already developing a social media strategy to promote key project milestones and opportunities for feedback. Social media content that points to the project page on your existing website will do the trick. If the team is already developing social media content, pointing to yourcity.gov/newplan or using a URL shortener is just as easy as pointing the content to newplaninyourcity.com.
A social media strategy that leverages community partners and plan champions who amplify the message will increase traffic to the project page. Our team recently worked with HNTB to support Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability’s efforts to site public electric vehicle chargers in priority communities across the southern and western parts of the county. By not developing a plan-specific website, our design and communications team focused on developing easy-to-deploy media kits for dozens of partners to increase awareness and engagement for the project.
Prioritize the potential of your project’s impact.
The hours a consultant spends building and updating a project-specific website might be better spent on the actual work of planning. This could look a lot of different ways: more community or stakeholder engagement, a more nuanced and tailored market analysis, higher-fidelity renderings to help communicate a vision to stakeholders, and more. For a lot of planning projects, a project website simply may not be worth the cost to design and host it.
Photos of various MUSE community engagement activities.
Enjoy a smoother hand-off when your project wraps.
A smooth project closeout process is just as important as a well-organized kickoff. Depending on your agency’s capacity, transferring the domain, hosting, and editing access to a website from the consultant to the client can be a bit of a headache. What happens to the content after the domain expires? When the project information lives on the agency website as its own page or series of pages, you are in full control from kickoff to closeout, and into the implementation phase.
Planners and government leaders are taking strides to do things differently than they’ve been done in the past in the name of equity and people-centered policies. While a website may seem like a drop in the bucket of systems change, even small scoping decisions can have a big impact on the final result of a planning process.
MUSE Community + Design specializes in creating plans, policies, and processes that help communities set and achieve their goals. MUSE excels in providing a fun, people-focused approach to draft and implement realistic, tailored solutions that celebrate communities’ assets. Our team is well-versed in land use, zoning, mobility, economic development, historic preservation, and more – and has worked on behalf of communities across the Chicago region, nationally, and internationally.
Interested in more urban planning hot takes? Follow MUSE Community + Design on social media @planning_muse
The APA-IL thanks MUSE Community + Design for being a 2022-23 Tier II Sponsor and supporting Great Communities for All in Illinois!
Authors: Ally Brisbin, Director, MUSE Community + Design
Images: All images on this page courtesy of MUSE Community + Design
Cover photo: Scrabble Tiles photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels