back to top

Constructing a case for development

October, 2023

The construction industry is vitally important to the economy in the South East. There are some fantastic companies, but too often before a spade can be put in the ground there’s the need to navigate the court of public opinion, and that requires good communication from the start. Andrew Metcalf, Managing Director at Kent-based PR and public affairs agency Maxim, explains.

As with any marketing campaign, the key to success is getting the messaging right, understanding the audience you are actively seeking to reach, and having everything in place before going public – and that takes time and a tried and tested methodology.

The reputation of the companies involved can be deal maker or breaker. A positive one, based upon delivering on your promises, doing the right thing and showing concern for the environment and community, is invaluable. A negative one and you’ll struggle to move perceptions, regardless of how good the project is. 

The route to development success starts at the planning system, and that has always been challenging, but many landowners and developers are now recognising the value of communicating early with the local community.

Engaging with politicians, community groups and local residents is key to many large planning applications. However, before that can be undertaken, there’s a need to put in some major preparation. You’ll need to answer the key questions: what are you proposing and where? Why is it important to the local community? What’s it going to achieve? When could it happen? 

‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ is never truer. If you haven’t considered all possible scenarios, positive and negative, before going public, then you’re likely to fall at the first hurdle of public opposition. In today’s digitally-connected world, opposition can appear almost instantaneous and soon catch hold. Being able to respond quickly and professionally is vital. Briefing key stakeholders ahead of any opposition, and stating your case early, is the preferred option, as no politician likes to find out about a project from an already irate resident.

Any engagement with the local community requires consistent communications, whether online, at public exhibitions, with the media and during the briefing of local stakeholders. Inconsistencies only generate questions and can often lose trust.

Make the most of key milestones

Once a project has navigated planning and a construction company appointed, the next opportunity is to promote reaching key milestones, such as groundbreaking, topping-out, handover and occupation. Each one provides a photo opportunity for the stakeholders who backed you, so invite them. They key for the construction industry is demonstrating it has the skills to deliver what the developer and landowners had promised during the planning process.

With planning, it’s much more than just the buildings, it’s the legally-binding financial contributions made to secure approval and too often they get overlooked when communicating to the public. With the climate emergency, developers should be demonstrating their initiatives to improve biodiversity, reduce carbon during the construction process and afterwards. 

And all that builds positive reputations and means you’re better placed for the next big project. 

To find out more about Maxim's track record in community and stakeholder engagement, take a look at our project map.

This article originally appeared in South East Business.

Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Managing Director

posted in: advice, reputation management,

we'd love to work with you

get in touch