- Aug 20, 2019
Community relations can be crucial to ensuring the smooth delivery of a project, especially when building in dense urban areas. Construction activity can have multiple community impacts from street closures to utility disruptions that may affect many different parties such as local businesses, residents, public agencies, and elected officials. Creating a coordinated community relations plan that complements a project’s schedule or appointing a construction community liaison are important strategies for managing expectations of key stakeholders. Successful community relations can help ease public concerns around a complex building project and build positive and productive relationships that benefit a project beyond its completion.
Some considerations for developing a strong community relations program:
Know Your Neighbors and Stakeholders
Who stands to be impacted during the project’s construction? Identifying key stakeholders and parties who may be interested or affected by the building of a project is a foundational element of good community relations. A community construction liaison can help gain an understanding of stakeholders’ concerns and interests in a project to help mitigate potential issues and build positive relationships. Maintaining a community notification network, an up-to-date list of contacts that includes surrounding local businesses, building owners, community leaders, among others, is critical for ensuring the delivery of timely updates throughout the project’s life-cycle. In the event of an emergency or unexpected disruption, this notification network can also be crucial from a public safety standpoint.
Keeping an Open Line of Communication
Some projects may benefit from the creation of an information hotline that is dedicated to fielding community questions, concerns or complaints. Having a dedicated phone number or email address that can be shared with stakeholders and other community members, demonstrates a willingness to listen and problem solve, and it can help streamline the intake and management of inquiries. The prompt and diligent response to inquiries is of the utmost importance to maintaining trust and a good rapport with the local community.
Responsiveness is Key
Once a concern or comment is fielded from the community, it should be logged and reported to the project team. Early and swift communication of complaints can help mitigate larger impacts and, hopefully, prevent future issues from arising. Tracking resolutions and recording responses may also help save time should similar inquiries arise. And clear, accurate and consistent messaging will help mitigate confusion or misunderstandings among community members and stakeholders.
Maintain a Clean and Attractive Site
While maintaining a clean site may seem obvious from a project management perspective, tidiness also helps build a positive rapport with the surrounding community. Construction sites can be made more attractive through the creative use of site fences wrapped with graphics, renderings, and project information. A fence wrap can act as a billboard to communicate information and help raise brand awareness and excitement about what is under construction.
Ultimately, a community relations plan is not just a best practice in construction management, it is simply the right thing to do. Understanding the specific needs and issues of the local community helps to manage project risks. When done right, community relations can help build strong ties to stakeholders that may prove invaluable well after construction is finished.