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Public Outreach

What existing public outreach channels are available?

How to decide which channels to use

  1. Identify your stakeholders
    • Make a list of your stakeholders
    • Who is affected by the project?
    • Click here for a list of community partners and their contact info
  2. Identify any barriers
    • Start with the hardest to reach populations first
      • For those who do not have access to Wi-Fi/adequate technology On-site communications are going to be best
      • For those with language barriers → Make sure materials are translated and a translator is available for all meetings
      • For those who work during the day → nighttime meetings are best
      • For those with children → offer childcare at your in-person meeting
  3. Identify what information to include
    • What is the purpose of the project?
      • The public is our biggest stakeholder, so we want to make sure we articulate how this project helps the community
    • What phase is this project in?
    • Who are the City's contractors and consultants
    • What is the description of the project
    • What is the scope of work?
    • Where is the project located?
    • What detours are available?
    • What is the project timeline?
    • Who is funding the project?
    • The public want to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
  4. Identify which channels to use:
Channel Audience
City Website Unlimited
Friday Memos/News Posts City Council, other departments, the public
NextDoor Social media outreach potential is technically unlimited, but in some cases, you are limited by the characteristics of each medium (e.g. you can't hyperlink Instagram posts and Twitter has a character limit, so they are better suited for bursts of information and sharing images)
Community Meetings Limited to those attending
A-frames/Signs at project location/CMS boards Unlimited, but geographically constrained by location
Community Partners Specific, targeted audiences (HOAs, BID, Chamber of Commerce, Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, etc.)

Always use more than one channel - overcommunicating is better than under communicating

Writing for public consumption

  • See Writing Style Guidelines
  • Make sure language is easy to follow:
    • No jargon terminology – define unknown terms
    • Spell out acronyms
  • The public are not technical experts, so assume you reader knows nothing
    • Writing should be at a 9th grade reading level
    • Use short sentences to break up large thoughts and make the information easier to digest
    • Clearly define your purpose (e.g. when writing a staff report for Council, you want them to take an action – thus, clearly define what that action is)
    • Is English your target populations’ primary language? Do you need translation of materials and at meetings?
  • Other helpful tips:
    • Use active tense, where possible
    • Put dates in the beginning of a sentence (e.g. In 1941, the bridge was built…)
    • Link out to past reports, the project website, etc. (anything that will give your audience a comprehensive understanding)
    • 🚫 Say no to death by PowerPoint 🚫 (see “Public Meetings” section below for helpful tips when drafting a presentation)
  • Hemingway App
    • This a great website for checking to see if your writing is clear and concise. You paste in your writing into this website, and it will highlight lengthy, complex sentences and common errors, and advise you on how to fix them
    • Once you paste in your writing, it also informs you at what school grade level your writing is at. You want to aim for 9th grade.
  • Start from the beginning. Describe the project as if it was the first time someone was hearing about it. Always link to project page on DPW website if one exists. Always spell out acronyms.
  • Where is the project? Be specific as possible about the geographic limits of the project
  • Why is this project being done? How will the project benefit the community?
  • What’s the schedule? When will the project be finished? Think milestones
    • Best practice is to include a rough construction timeline
  • Why are you notifying the public? Just an information update? Or an upcoming activity that will be taking place? What work has already been done on the project vs. what is to come?
  • How will residents/business owners be directly impacted? Will roads be closed to vehicles? Sidewalks to pedestrians/bicyclists? Are there detours?
  • Are you seeking input from the community? If so, be clear on what, and how they can provide it
    • Do you need a survey? Or would you like their feedback at an upcoming meeting?
  • How is this project being funded? Do you need to thank any community groups for donations, or acknowledge local funders (TAM) or State funds (SB 1)? Measure E San Rafael sales taxMeasure A Countywide Parks sales taxMeasure C Wildfire tax?
  • How can residents get more information and/or who should they contact for additional questions?
  • As they occur! Keep the public updated as we progress on projects, whether it is during design, the pre-bid phase, active construction, over even routine maintenance
  • We want to make sure we are communicating with them while the news is still fresh and whenever new information arises
  • If one page of the City’s website has out-of-date information, the public will be dubious on whether or not other information is recent
  • See “Visuals” section below
  • Visual aids help the presenter explain information more coherently and make learning easier for the audience. They also help add variety to presentations, thus making it more interesting for the audience.
  • Avoid using hard-to-understand engineering sketches. Use photos, aerial images, photos of similar projects, mock designs to get the public to better understand your project.
  • People are used to looking at Google maps. The closer to a Google map your visual is the easier it will be for people to understand.

Public Meetings

As we shifted to working from home during the pandemic, there was a newfound need to develop engaging virtual meetings and presentations. More importantly, we realized that virtual meetings are here to stay - global pandemic or not. Here are some helpful tips when making PowerPoints (pre or post-pandemic 😉)

Say "No" to Death by PowerPoint

  • One message per slide
    • Don't make it confusing for your audience by making sure that their attention is on one item. This way, they can clearly listen to your message without getting cluttered
  • Use PowerPoint as its supposed to be used: short, sweet bit of text and an image
    • PowerPoint slides should augment your message, not reiterate it
    • Instead of writing down what you are going to say, just say it. Your audience will focus on you and digest the information better
  • The most important part of your PowerPoint should also be the biggest; nothing else
    • Make your headings a smaller font, and your content a larger font
    • In many cases, the heading is not the important part of the presentation. Our eyes will naturally be drawn to larger objects, so you want to make sure that your bullet points and content text is in a larger font than the slide title
  • Contrast
    • NO white backgrounds. Dark backgrounds cause the eyes to relax and make the slide more legible to read
    • Remember: YOU are the presentation; your slides are your visual aid
  • No more than 6 items per page
    • You audience's capacity to understand will drastically decrease if 7 or more items are on a slide - keep it at a minimum (6 or less)
      • Note: this does not mean your PowerPoint should be 6 slides long; just the items/bullet points on it. Please do keep in mind, though, to not have too many slides - just enough slides to convey your message

Before the Meeting

  • Why are you having the meeting? Identify you intended outcome(s)
    • To inform on upcoming construction schedule, impact to residents, etc.
    • To get feedback on specific design concepts, scope, project scheduling, etc.
      • Do you need a survey? Google forms is a good, free survey tool
  • Ask Admin for help making a registration online form on the project webpage
  • Make a flyer (or ask Admin for help with a flyer)
  • Start promoting the meeting ideally 3 weeks in advance (see “Existing Communication Channels”)
  • How many attendees are you expecting? Prepare materials and tailor agenda accordingly (e.g. plan adequate time for public comment and engagement portions of the meeting)
  • Prepare an engaging presentation with lots of visuals

During the Meeting

  • Follow the agenda
  • Make sure there is time allocated for public comment
  • Remember that people can get distracted easily in virtual meetings and it’s hard to gauge what people are thinking without visual cues
    • This is why an engaging presentation is important
    • Make use of the chat box
      • Ask you audience questions and have them reply in the chat. This is a great way to keep them engaged

After the Meeting

  • Post meeting materials (PPT, survey, etc.) on project webpage
  • Send an email to meeting attendees thanking them for participating and linking them to the project webpage for future updates


Free sites to make good looking flyers



  • Avoid blowing up cell phone photos for large banners, A-frames etc.
  • When appropriate, work with design consultant to create a mockup of what the finished project will look like


  • Most funding agreements require signage at the construction site advertise that Measure A, AA, SB1, etc. dollars are being used. Always take photos of signage posted
  • Ask Admin for help with creating A-frame signs, banners, etc.
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