Sunday, February 21, 2010

32 Ways To Communicate A Construction Project

I have been looking at some recently completed community relations campaigns that have supported major developments in Australia.

Here’s some of the communications tools and strategies used by companies and government agencies to get community buy-in for large construction projects:
  • Advertising.
  • Blogs dedicated to the construction project.
  • Complaint management systems to register and track complaints.
  • Construction staff volunteering for local charities and events.
  • Employing local people and buying from local suppliers.
  • Conveniently placed information centres where residents can get information.
  • Dedicated website or minisites.
  • Demonstration projects.
  • Displays at community events.
  • Email channels for complaints or queries.
  • Employing local communicators who understand affected communities.
  • Fact sheets with specifc themes that can be mailed, emailed, downloaded or handed out.
  • Information packs for businesses, schools and retailers.
  • Interactive mobile kiosks in libraries, shopping and other high traffic areas.
  • Leaving behind legacy projects after construction such as new roads, school improvements, parks and other recreational facilities.
  • Media briefings on constructions sites.
  • Media relations.
  • One on one briefings with landholders and other key people.
  • Operational changes based on community feedback such as scheduling work at night or during school holidays.
  • Presentations to local groups on a one-off or regular basis.
  • Print materials such as newsletters, bulletins, advisories, bulletins, posters.
  • Transferring communications staff to live in the areas affected by construction.
  • Research on audiences and attitudes before, during and after construction.
  • Site tours and open days for the public.
  • Specially equipped information buses that can travel around communities.
  • Sponsoring organisations or events in areas affected by construction.
  • Staff from diverse backgrounds tasked to communicate with multicultural communities.
  • Stakeholder consultative bodies offering feedback on the effectiveness of communications.
  • Thank you events once a project finishes.
  • Toll free hot lines.
There was little use of social media in these constructions projects but this many change as more people use new digital platforms to get information on local developments.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pollies Speak Plain English Please

 At the start of the year I invited PR people in Canberra to guest blog and discuss their communications concerns. My friend and senior Canberra PR consultant ,Nigel Catchlove, has taken up the the offer and here Nigel calls on politicians of all persuasions to speak plain English.  

The views below are entirely Nigel's.

"Parliamentary question time is full of linguistic gymnastics performed by our elected officials so they may avoid answering a question.  Very little has changed with the change in Government although Kevin Rudd is a master when it comes to flapping his gums, gesticulating boldly and saying nothing.  In fact it’s not just during question time that our Prime Minister looks and sounds like he’s talking but isn’t making any sense. 

His press conference after the Major Economies Forum included a now famous gem; ‘It is highly unlikely that anything will emerge from the MEF in terms of detailed programmatic specificity.’ The use of an acronym such as MEF is also not unusual for this highly intelligent yet incomprehensible man.

Sir Isaac Newton surmised; ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’, and so it is in Australian politics.  The reaction to Kevin Rudd’s overuse of passive language is the emergence of the ‘say-it-how-it-is’ politician being jointly developed by Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce.

Using plain direct English allows for descriptions of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as a ‘great big new tax’.  There’s not much depth to that statement but it was made in an environment where the government is unable to explain the intricacies of its policy and even the name is a truly awful piece of work.  Many would argue that carbon is not a pollutant and even more would point out that the scheme won’t reduce anything. 

But is plain English the way to go?  I think it is but like Aristotle suggested, ‘everything in moderation’.

The challenge comes when politicians don’t want to be cornered, don’t want to show their hand or simply want to obfuscate an issue.

This is all very easy for Kevin Rudd. Frankly, few can interpret what he says, so whether he is answering a question or is dancing around trying to avoid the issue, his speech is mostly white noise anyway.  His demeanour changes little as he speaks – always in control, always arrogant, always dismissive of anyone who dares question his wisdom. 

For the self-labelled plain speaking politician the challenge is a little different and carries a lot more risk.  If people are used to hearing Tony Abbot describe anthropogenic climate change as ‘absolute crap’ and Barnaby Joyce describing Labor as ‘having gone on a spending bender’, then they would have been confused to hear Barnaby try to avoid taking a position about the foreign investment review board and its approach to Chinese government owned enterprises buying Australian assets.

On Q&A on the ABC on 15 Feb, Lindsay Tanner played the all-knowing smarter-than-you politician very well coming across as articulate, perhaps arrogant but across his portfolio. Barnaby Joyce however looked decidedly uncomfortable and I was left at a loss when he changed demeanour, changed speaking style and tried to fudge his way out of a simple question that demanded a simple answer.

It is a refreshing change to hear a politician answer questions and speak succinctly rather than waffle endlessly without saying anything, however, consistency is the key.  Kevin Rudd may come across as a bland, intelligent uber-nerd but he does so most of the time. Barnaby Joyce changes depending on what he thinks will play best to the audience and reverts to the passive Orwellian speak we have all come to associate with politicians when the going gets a little tough. 

My advice is much like Aristotles – everything in moderation.  Politicians should use active voice but they just need to tone their rhetoric down a little."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bob's Online Library

Recently we started an online library to bring together references that can help your PR and marketing.  Visit the library here.

(It is based on Posterous a free social bookmarking software).

Why Raising Awareness Is Poor PR

Recently I came across a very good blog post about raising awareness and why it is a poor goal for a PR or marketing campaign.

Often people talk loosely about the need to raise awareness of their issue, product or service.  Even when people know you exist that alone will not move the needle to make your organisation more successful.  

After all what do you do with awareness once you have raised it? 

Awareness alone does not translate into more income, volunteers, program take-up or involvement.  I may be aware of Ford Motor Company but I may choose to drive a General Motors car.  I know about Coke but may prefer to drink Pepsi.  I know about Telstra services but give my business to Optus (true).

The true goal is for the people you need to engage (audiences), to change either their attitude so they eventually support what you are trying to achieve.  Or to change a specific behaviour such as adopting a healthier lifestyle, buying something, registering to vote or using your services etc.

Achieving this often means:
  • Continuous communications  and keeping in mind the PR maxim: just when you are sick of saying something, people are probably just starting to listen.
  • Compelling content (centred on personal stories) that motivates people to change what they are currently doing.  
  • An approach that grabs attention and propels your message through the communications clutter engulfing the average person.
  • A repetitious mix of communications tactics so if one approach fails one time, another may succeed later.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Business Reason To Tell Stories

Story telling is the universal language of the human camp.  We have been telling each other stories for 40 000 years.  We use them to motivate, amuse, warn and share information.

Stories are powerful.  Yet are you using them to communicate the good things your organisation does? If not why not?  A story is more powerful than a mission statement, annual report or policy document. 

I recently came across great advice from Alison Esse of the about how  companies can use stories and I thought it is worth sharing with you.  Thanks Alison.


 The best way to pitch storytelling to your organisation is to position the argument as a 'winning  hearts and minds' one - creating an emotional connection to the  organisation, its objectives, goals, strategy and vision rather than  simply a rational one.

 Assuming that no business leader would argue that they didn't want to  create this level of connection, it would be fair then to suggest that  a storytelling approach is really one of the most effective ways of  achieving this.  Since mankind began we have used stories as a  powerful way to transfer knowledge and information, engage and inspire  people and to spark the emotions, stimulate actions or change  attitudes and behaviours. 
It's a necessary and vital part of human  bonding.  

We all tell and hear stories every day of our lives, in and outside the workplace, and harnessed to specific business messages you  can effect the most remarkable changes very swiftly.  The corporate  'story' or journey can be structured and told as a narrative which  makes it easy to understand and believe in (and corporate narratives  should be constructed in the same way as any story narrative), and  validated and nurtured with great stories about employees and  customers to keep it alive and to sustain interest.  Unless leaders  believe that 80-deck Powerpoint presentations can achieve the same  effect, it's a no-brainer!

 It may be a good idea to pitch the idea starting with a great story  about an employee who, faced with a particular dilemma (eg customer- related), took a particular course of action to win the day and make  something happen that has been truly inspiring or beneficial in some way to the business.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Branding for Not For Profits

Check out this SlideShare Presentation. It has some good insights into branding in the digital age.