Communicating Construction: Insight, Experience and Best Practice

March 2021 saw the official launch of Liz’s new book ‘Communicating Construction’, edited with Penny Norton for Routledge following the success of their first book ‘Promoting Property’ last year.

Communicating Construction book

‘Communicating Construction: Insight, Experience and Best Practice’ is a wide ranging exploration of PR and communications practice across many parts of the construction supply chain, and an essential reading for all construction PR teams, students achieving degrees in either the built environment and PR/marketing, and anyone working in the property sector who needs to consider PR and marketing as part of their role.

“Each chapter demonstrates how varied each area is within this huge industry, and how much scope there is to demonstrate the power of good PR as a strategic management discipline” says Alastair McCapra, Chief Executive of CIPR and author of the book’s foreword.

Just a few weeks old, ‘Communicating Construction’ has already received a very warm welcome from Emma Leech, former President of CIPR. “This is the ultimate book on construction PR” says Emma, “It combines a broad strategic approach along with some excellent examples of best practice. The diversity of the chapter authors and their background demonstrates the incredible extent and breadth of the sector and such a broad approach will undoubtedly help to equip both those entering the industry and those already working within it with a wide perspective, as well as some fantastic insight.”

Get your copy here

To order a copy, visit the Routledge website where you can also secure a 20% discount by using the code CON21.

About the book

Chapter 1 – Introduction by Liz Male & Penny Norton

PR and communications services enable the construction industry to make the most of its opportunities, charting its progress, achievements and successes, while also supporting its businesses and projects to achieve their business and social objectives. The first chapter of the book provides an overview of the UK construction industry – or rather, the ecosystem of related industries and supply chains, each with its own communications practices and media. It explores the reputational issues faced by construction and the efforts to transform public attitudes towards the industry, as well as looking at the impact of new initiatives on things like diversity, digitalisation and modern methods of construction.

Chapter 2 – Communications for planning – Penny Norton

The primary communications function in planning is consultation: the process of engaging with a defined set of stakeholders (usually local residents, politicians, special interest groups and pre-defined statutory consultees) on a planning issue or proposal, encouraging their feedback and utilising it constructively. Consultation, and community involvement generally, has progressed significantly with increased use of social media. This chapter considers the new communications tools available, within the context of a strategic approach and the legal and regulatory framework at the start of 2020. It also addresses some of the common challenges and concludes with a set of principles for effective consultation.

Chapter 3 – Communications for architecture – Dan Gerrella

There are many strands of communication within the architectural sector. These range from detailed stakeholder engagement to help secure planning approvals through to celebrating the completion of a successful building or masterplan. This chapter explores the various stages of promoting architecture and urbanism, the issues affecting the sector, and how practices need to adapt.

Chapter 4 – Communications for major contractors – Andrew Geldard

This chapter sets out how PR professionals working with major contractors can help their companies or clients thrive in meeting the challenges faced by a fast moving world where technology is changing both the workplace and people’s behaviours on an almost monthly basis. It explores the concept of people publishers, the power of having an army of brand ambassadors on side, and the importance of having a values-driven belief that business must deliver social value beyond making a return for shareholders. It seeks to equip communicators with the tools required to help senior management teams harness the potential of social value and digital media to drive growth while also showing where they can offer most value within a business discipline where the outputs can sometime be intangible to the senior management team.

Chapter 5 – Communications for specialist subcontractors – Cathy Barlow

This chapter explores the role that specialist subcontractors play in the increasingly complex construction industry, and the different PR tools and techniques that can be used to help them build relationships, and to grow and maintain a robust reputation.

Chapter 6 – Communications for construction products – Louise Morgan

Focused on using PR and media relations to support the sales activity of building product manufacturers, this chapter discusses the complexity of the construction supply chain and explains how to build a solid programme which resonates with various stakeholders. The chapter explores in detail how PR in construction has evolved in recent years and advises how best to manage activity using multiple tactics, including the Building Regulations as a source of content.

Chapter 7 – Communications for infrastructure – Jo Field

This chapter explains the role that transport and infrastructure PR has in engaging stakeholders and involving them in the journey of a large-scale project. It looks at what we mean by stakeholder engagement and argues that PR is crucial in championing stakeholders’ views. The chapter looks at the importance of communicating the social value of infrastructure and helps the reader navigate the legal landscape of consultation and engagement. It explains stakeholder mapping; making sure that all voices are heard, and the importance of developing plans in partnership with stakeholders. The chapter also describes how to measure success. It includes case studies and the author’s tips for successful stakeholder engagement.

Chapter 8 – Communications for building consultancies – Tom Smith

This chapter looks at the current approach of one building consultancy, Mott MacDonald, to raise its profile and gain publicity through traditional PR and media relations, social media and other communications activities. A substantial case study of the Cumbria Infrastructure Recovery Programme puts the theory into practice.

Chapter 9 – Communications for construction technology – Paul Wilkinson

Construction is undergoing a technological revolution. Initially slow to digitise, architectural, engineering and construction organisations, plus their owner-operator clients, are now being challenged to innovate – to change their business models and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities. Momentum has gathered since the late 20th century, and developments such as building information modelling (BIM), cloud and mobile computing, social media and data analytics are already transforming the sector, while new industry structures, processes and cultural practices will help sustain its wider transformation to meet challenges including climate change, population growth and mass urbanisation. This chapter argues that communication professionals working in this changing sector will need to understand recent and future digital trends, while also adapting and applying their professional and industry knowledge to help their employers and clients make better-informed strategic choices about their role in the built environment.

Chapter 10 – Communications for sustainability – Liz Male

This chapter examines the way that sustainability is defined in the built environment and the key themes that provide opportunity in UK construction for communicating sustainability. It explores the issues around technical understanding and the communication of science, ‘greenwashing’ and ‘greenblushing’, labelling and third-party certification. It concludes with advice on how PR professionals in construction can engage with the public on sustainability messaging and help facilitate environmental behaviour change, and how to use the PESO model of PR to communicate sustainability in the built environment.

Chapter 11 – Conclusion – Liz Male & Penny Norton

The final chapter looks at the future of construction, its reputation and its communications priorities, including how it rebuilds trust again after the Grenfell Tower tragedy and addresses issues such as diversity, innovation, mental health and climate change. The chapter identifies 10 top priorities for construction’s PR and communications advisers in operating at a much more informed and strategic level, emphasising PR’s role as a strategic management function and the need for practitioners to be working towards achieving and maintaining recognised expert status through professional CPD.

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