On the 7th of June NeulandQuartier attended Scandinavia's leading conference for Tramway - Light Rail Day in Copenhagen. Our team joined the stage with various international speakers to cover a broad range of topics. We spoke in detail about our many years of experience in the field of participation communication. The many conversations we had with representatives from other companies and experts from various public transport companies about citizen participation and stakeholder engagement for infrastructural projects were really interesting and enriching. We can’t wait to implement new ideas that we took away from the event.
It’s the same all over Europe: alongside the construction work itself, the challenging task of infrastructural projects is the communication about the construction work. We shared what we’ve learned from our light-rail-project in the „Große Steinstraße“ in Halle/Saale, Germany as follows.
It is no longer a question if you communicate, but how.
People want to know what’s going on in their community or in their neighborhood. In times where even cats have their own social-media-accounts, talking about infrastructure shouldn't be a problem. If a new infrastructural project isn’t communicated at all it will seem suspicious.
Communicate proactively, clearly and – in the beginning – loudly!
A good start into the communication process is important for the whole project. When every stakeholder feels noticed and up to date about the process, you’ve communicated it right. And that shouldn’t just be a feeling: every important stakeholder who gets informed regularly can be monitored and managed. But no one wants to be handled with standard PR-phrases. Talk to them in a clear and understandable way whilst having in mind which target group you’re addressing. A proactive communication avoids suspicion and builds transparency and trust.
Take a look at things from your target group’s perspective.
Every target group has a different interest in your project. To learn about their motives you have to put yourself in their position. This allows you to communicate with empathy and engage in an open dialogue.
External communication will only be successful if internal communication works well.
Stakeholders on the inside of the project are as important as those on the outside. When people from different sectors are part of the same project, communication between them should work as smooth as possible. It will only work to communicate with credibility and a one-voice-policy if you have a good internal communication strategy.
Communication is all about relationships. Stay in regular contact and remain front of mind.
Communication only works if you do it on a regular basis, so that your target groups know you’re keeping them posted. This way you‘re building trust and your stakeholders know they can rely on your word. Regular communication also has many advantages for you; leading your stakeholders in the right direction (towards your target) is a lot easier, if you do it with many small steps instead of a few big ones.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer (and take the undecided out for dinner).
It’s important to know who your supporters are and to keep in touch with them. But it’s even more important to be aware of who the opponents to your project are. They need to be monitored closely, so that they can’t get in the way of your project. But the undecided are those, who are most influential on your work. Whether they become supporters or opponents is mostly up to you. Watch them, know who influences them and then help them sway to one or the other side.
Communication drives projects forward and protects costs whilst preventing and managing risks.
Good communication works preventively so that some risks don’t even occur – regarding both, the internal and the external communication. Potential risks can be found through an extensive analysis of the initial situation. If you can’t avoid these risks, you can manage and contain them by communicating properly. This way you can maintain your initial costs and schedule.
Invest in communication and you will be rewarded.
Measuring the impact of your communication strategy isn’t as easy as for example measuring installed cables or building wind turbines. But that shouldn’t discourage you from investing in good communication. On the contrary – by monitoring your communication you will be able to keep control of your costs and the schedule. Prior to spending a lot of money on rearranging the schedule and paying overtime, you can invest a small amount on your communication budget to avoid all of that.
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