DTW joins Northern Spire team to share tips on ensuring project success

Title screen from Northern Spire video, opened August 2018

The link between communications and PR and good project management is something we’re passionate about, so put us in a conference full of project managers and our ‘inner nerd’ starts to really show.

This week DTW joined the Northern Spire team at the Association of Project Managers’ Power of the Profession conference in Manchester.

Around 200 of the north’s leading project managers, from a diverse range of companies and sectors, including representatives from Shell, Northumbrian Water, the NHS and Transport for the North, gathered to share their best practice ideas on getting the most out of your people and processes in order to maximise production and success, and achieve greater outcomes for the community by managing projects more effectively and efficiently.

Key to the discussion was the importance of focusing on and communicating stakeholder and community benefits in project management, and the vital role stakeholder communication plays in ensuring the success of a project.

Members of the Northern Spire team from Farrans Construction, Faithful+Gould, Atkins and DTW exhibited, and presented to delegates on the importance of placing and communicating benefits at the heart of your project.

Here’s four DTW top tips for using communications to make your project a success:

  • Start with research and by listening to your stakeholders – communication is a two way street – make sure you listen to the concerns of your community – whether that is employees, customers, residents or retailers. Put yourself in their shoes, think about what their concerns are and make sure you address them.
  • Focus on benefits and tell your story – once you know where you are starting from because you’ve done your research and have clear objectives, take people on a journey and make sure your story focuses on the project benefits and outcomes at every stage.
  • Engage directly with people – be open, honest and transparent with your audience – even when you have bad news to tell them – and you’ll get the credit in the long run. It takes time, guts and sometimes broad shoulders, but remember that feedback is what you want – it will help you improve your project and deliver better outcomes.
  • Be a good neighbour – remember you are just passing through – projects are inevitably temporary, even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes! You’re just dropping in as a temporary member of a real permanent community of residents, businesses or employees, and the project is for them, so putting their interests first is what it’s all about.

The communications budget on Northern Spire accounted for only 0.5% of the total project budget, yet the buy-in to community engagement, public and media relations from everyone, from Sunderland City Council, main contractor FVB Joint Venture, Atkins, Faithful+Gould, and sub-contractors on site, meant that communications ran through every fibre of the project.

Getting all of the project team on board took time and involved huge amounts of leg work at the beginning, however, the results far outweighed the budget and the effort, evidenced in the huge community pride demonstrated when the bridge was unveiled in August, and the 20,000 people who came to walk across the deck before it opened to traffic.

With communications, a little really does go a long way, and taking the time to involve people can make the difference between perceived success and failure.

Six months after a project is finished, very few people will remember whether it was delivered on time or on budget, but they will know whether or not they like it.

So, don’t leave that to chance. Take the community on the journey with you and then you will all arrive at the desired destination together.

Thanks for reading.