About 1 year ago the last brick was laid on the 2-year multi-million-dollar remake of Concord’s Main Street. Our team did the public relations work. We learned a lot – and here are some lessons we took away from the transformative project.
The project has won a handful of big awards, including a NH Preservation Alliance award and the Consulting Engineers Council Engineering Excellence Awards.
But the Project’s success was never guaranteed –a lot of hard work went into getting it right. Here are some learning points we can share:
Stuff Happens: Week one – and a water main ruptured. Not a good way to start a project – but it was the only real issue in more than 2 years of building. We had a plan, acted quickly and with a cool head. It is important to think through possible points of crisis, and have a plan, statements and tactics ready should things go wrong. Having 2-3 clear talking points ready can be all the difference. Be prepared for bad news – and not surprised.
The media can be your friend. We knew that the local daily could be a real help - so we came up with a plan to work with the Concord Monitor – and found ways to reach out. We met with them, looked at what they needed, and worked out how we could get them info to meet their deadlines- and as a result the coverage was very beneficial.
Look beyond the dust – to sell a big project, or anything, you need to look beyond the mess and show the prize at the bottom of the box. What is the goal, what is this leading to? Marketing is about having an end goal, a prize to look forward to. People do not want to sacrifice if there is no benefit – you need to show them what can be and how it will help them. That is good marketing. And good public relations is a major part of any construction project.
Communicate – we saw that with public works projects that followed the Main Street Project but did not use the formula established. Businesses suffered and many complained for a lack of information. Without an approach to help business, or a clear stream of what is going on and when, people will fill in the blanks. Often those being left out will take a negative perspective. Lastly, we talked to people face-to-face –there is no substitute for that – and we listened. Electronic forms of communication are great, but don’t let them be walls you hide behind – get out there and see for yourself, and let others see you. Be open handed, communicate and listen.
Cover every base – we had a news flow coming out via Twitter, Facebook, a blog and website, via You Tube and the media. There were cameras on the project, and a weekly update that went our through every possible conduit. The more ways you reach out, the more you get around to the various segments of your market – all of whom use different media in different ways.