Much is uncertain at the moment, but what is certain is that the development industry will need to find new ways to communicate as the Government deploys increasingly harsher measures to combat the coronavirus.

Traditionally, the industry has used methods to inform the public and gather their views face to face at exhibitions and workshops, as well as through a range of newspaper adverts, press releases, leaflets and posters. To gather views, a questionnaire or feedback form would be handed to them to complete at an event or taken away and posted using a freepost envelope or included on a website.

Within project teams, discussion is often centred around long email threads with differing subject lines and those relevant to the discussion cc’d, or through phone calls or face-to-face meetings.

With so many of the traditional methods now restricted by Government, there is a chance for industry to embrace technology to allow it to continue to hit targets, albeit remotely, in a challenging environment.


A website for any proposed development was already a useful tool but a good one is an even bigger asset in the current climate. A well thought out website will be able to inform and interact with your audience, using Google sheets or other such tools to produce feedback forms for visitors.


Despite the advancement of Facebook targeting being credited by some for the recent EU Referendum and US election results, it is still underused by businesses hoping to reach specific audiences. Facebook’s targeting options are an excellent opportunity to target groups that would not otherwise participate in the public consultations that use more traditional methods. Often these people are also more supportive of increased housing in their area.


Zoom seems to have become the star of the coronavirus crisis. For the development industry, it is able to fulfil a dual purpose.

Firstly, it can be used to engage with residents in meetings of anywhere up to 100 attendees. Residents do not need to have a zoom account to participate, a link can be distributed to the relevant respondents through a mailing list or on the development site’s website.

Zoom allows the person at the helm to control the meeting or even muting participants similar to how a Chair would during a town hall meeting which keeps the discussion on track, something that other Q&A platforms, such as Facebook Live, could be in danger of falling to.

Zoom is also a good option to use for those offices where employees are working from home currently but also in the future. It is available on a wide range of operating systems and services include reliable streaming for team meetings, screen sharing for presentations as well as annotation and whiteboards for meetings where some level of collaboration is required.


Slack is an online messaging platform that you can use on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS and synchronises your devices if you have more than one e.g. a phone and laptop.

There are two types of channels on Slack: the public and private. Public are discussions that all team members can access and participate in and a private channel will only be accessible to team members specified by the channel’s creator. The use of ‘teams’ stops the need to CC and BCC people into emails. Busy project managers may want to take advantage of the custom notification settings to only send an alert when a keyword is mentioned, or to do it only if sent a private message.

In addition to messaging, the system can be used with a lot of third-party service integrations to enhance file uploads from Google Drive for example.

Skype and Microsoft Teams

Skype is probably the biggest name in the video call field currently but Skype for Business Online will retire on July 31, 2021, and be integrated with Microsoft Teams, bringing together files, chats, and apps under an integrated app.

The communication service allows users to make free video calls to other Skype accounts and with Microsoft’s recent changes it allows group chats with guests.

The new integrated service will have messaging services and allow you to hold video chats and make local, domestic, and international calls. White-board options are available for collaborative meetings and you are able to post polls and hold Q&A sessions.

In these challenging times, with the help of technology, TFA considers that the wheels of the planning process can continue to turn and that those who work to ensure they promote the most effective engagement campaign are more likely to win the favour of communities and their elected representatives.