The new reality now facing companies adjusting to a new business and public policy environment following the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many unique communication challenges in dealing with external stakeholders.
Although the main objective in any negotiation between construction development leaders and external stakeholders still remains the same, the lasting effects of the pandemic may affect the procedural approach for many years to come.
Ensuring Effective Communication
As lockdowns ease globally, and the rate of Covid-19 vaccinations gradually increase, the key to effective communication is still in exercising flexibility, keeping communication lines open in order to create and maintain a positive perception and community welcome for the project, allaying any concerns stakeholders may have, and avoiding a communications vacuum.
Remember that successful communication between construction liaisons and external stakeholders remains absolutely crucial, especially during trying times.
Now more than ever, it is vital to communicate any message concisely and clearly, monitoring feedback, and conducting regular follow up sessions through tailored and well-informed means. As well as this, implementing the highest standards of community cooperation, stakeholder engagement, and environmental procedures is imperative.
Affected communities and stakeholder groups with interests in their local community, however, must also have the choice to exercise flexibility in communicating with project representatives, either in person or via other ‘socially distanced’ means.
Alternative Communication Methods and ‘Virtual Technology’ Tools
A number of ways of conducting effective communications with external stakeholders following the Covid-19 pandemic include:
• Creating a residents/stakeholder helpline.
• Establishing an online residents’ project monitoring committee.
• Sending information-specific emails or text alerts.
• Creating WhatsApp groups to disseminate relevant project information.
• Interaction via Facebook page and Twitter - perhaps provided and managed by the Client Communications Dept.
• Regular updates via the client’s website or project website.
• Conducting interactive presentations for city/county/state/regional/municipal council area meetings as well as strategic policy committee meetings.
• Online presentations for prescribed bodies.
• Online interactive presentations for local schools and other educational institutions.
• Dissemination of monthly/quarterly project newsletters incorporating ‘frequently asked questions, describing the planning process, an EIS (EIAR), and a communications protocol for significant archaeological finds during construction.
The Project and the Community
Communication, transparency, and an approach of genuine consultation and engagement need to be in the bloodstream of projects – also, communicating the positive aspects of the project to the community will be a priority.
Those directly impacted by any proposed changes or projects will tend to require the highest levels of involvement and communication i.e., residents located in closest proximity to a new facility or infrastructure project.
Particular focus will likely be required on consulting these affected groups on project design, planning process, construction activities, as well as expected local infrastructure enhancements and changes, and overall project outcome in terms of benefits.
Through effective communication with external stakeholders, either online or via socially distanced means, a coordinated consensus-building approach should likely be embraced, therefore diminishing the potential for external stakeholder objections or lengthy disputes.
Would you like to know more?
If you’d like to know more about the use of traditional versus virtual technology communications and consultation tools - as well as effective stakeholder communication in general - why not have a look at our own internationally recognised Global CPD course?