Get engaged – the importance of project communications and stakeholder engagement
Peter Fry, Associate Director
Why stakeholder engagement matters more than ever.
Public consultation and the warm fuzzy stuff of stakeholder engagement have long been seen as an add-on to the technical aspects of major projects. Going out and talking to people used to be perceived as unusual at best and frightening at worst. No longer. Stakeholder engagement and public consultation are integral to the success or failure of a project. In the UK, we have a planning system that demands it but more widely, people and communities who now expect it.
Most of us are used to accessing information whenever we want or need it. If this access is denied or disrupted, frustration and fury usually follow.
The next time there’s major disruption to normal day-to-day life, such as a storm that results in cancellation ofdozens of flights or (in the UK) leaves on railway tracks that cause cancellation of many trains, take a look at the TV news that follows. I guarantee you there’ll be an interview with an exasperated passenger saying something like ‘it’s ridiculous, there’s just not enough information’. The same is true for a major project.
With a smartphone anyone can be an activist. At the touch of a button you can set up a campaign group or join one. A petition can be organised in minutes. A letter writing campaign to local politicians can be shared and ‘liked’ before you even finished setting out your proposals.
Start a project without knowing what your stakeholders are thinking or where they’re coming from and you’ll be stuck on the back foot, always reacting to situations rather than setting the narrative and leading it.
Stakeholder engagement, project communications and consultation need to be integrated into a project throughout its life and not bolted on as an after-thought because by then it will be too late. At all times during a project you have to think about what information you’re going to release, when you’re going to do it and to whom.
The information that you can get from stakeholders helps highlight risks early on and gives you time to address them. You can gather valuable local insight as well as ideas that can lead to a better chance of gaining project acceptance.
If you want to know more about how stakeholder engagement might be used on a project the Amec Foster Wheeler team can help. We have the resources and a wide range of experience to help with the planning and delivery of strategic stakeholder engagement and public consultation, including experience on programmes on projects such as the Hinkley Power connection project, HS2 and the Thames Tideway Tunnel, as well as managed communications on a multitude of different projects.
About the blogger
Peter is an Associate Director with Amec Foster Wheeler and has many years of project communications experience working on consultation, public affairs and engagement strategies. He has worked on major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, HS2 and the Lower Thames Crossing.