Top tips to get the community on side!
For many construction and manufacturing businesses, especially those that operate close to residential areas, keeping the local community on side is really important.
Many organisations, both large and small, have seen what can happen when local people are not informed or consulted. Complaints can be raised with the Environment Agency, local authority, MPs and media. These can then result in bad publicity, harsh criticism and, in extreme instances, temporary or prolonged plant shutdown.
This is the last thing that a construction or manufacturing business needs and our aim is to help ensure this doesn’t happen and for you to retain positive relations with the local community.
Here are our top 10 tips for keeping the local community on side…
1) Identify your stakeholders
A great starting point is to draw up a list which identifies all your stakeholders. We can work with you on this and create a stakeholder map showing internal, external and connected stakeholders. This will include organisations, such as local environmental groups, wildlife trusts, parish councils, MPs, councillors, staff and residents within a 2-3 mile radius of the plant.
From this, we would draw up a list of key contacts within each stakeholder group, and then ensure that we communicate any relevant information to them – keeping them informed and on our side.
2) Draw up an activity plan
The next step is to draw up a plan for the year ahead. This would cover a wide range of activities that we would carry out proactively on your behalf to ensure that we regularly engage with the stakeholders. Covering a full year, we would schedule activities for each month to ensure a consistent level of activity throughout the year.
3) Demonstrate importance of Health & Safety
Health & Safety at your plant is a very important issue and one that may attract interest from stakeholders. As part of the community engagement campaign, it is important to continually demonstrate your organisation’s very good record on health & safety. For example, we can promote the number of months/years since the last Lost Time Injury and publicise when ROSPA Gold and other health & safety accreditations have been achieved. The aim is to show that your organisation is dedicated to ensuring that there are no health & safety issues – either inside or outside of the plant.
4) Be good to your local Environment
On large manufacturing and construction sites, demonstrating good stewardship of the environment is one of the most important issues. Large plants and factories often attract criticism from local residents or environmental groups who may raise concerns about pollution, noise, emissions and the like.
We would work with you to develop an Environmental Action Plan to ensure that you are actively working with the community on environmental issues. For example, you could link up with the local Wildlife Trust to work with them on joint projects – which would be great for relationship building. Many of our clients allow staff the opportunity to spend a number of hours each year helping environmental projects. This could include getting involved with river clean-ups, tree planting or sustainable building projects. All this helps to build important relationships with the community, whilst benefiting the local environment.
5) Work with a local Charity
There’s no better way to raise your team’s spirits than by working together on a project that benefits good causes. Our approach is to nominate a number of local charities, then ask staff to vote for the one they’d most like to support. Our community engagement plan would include 2-3 fundraising activities for local charities every year – we could then organise these on your behalf and work with your team to implement any events.
6) Host a Community open day
The public are often kept far away from large plants and manufacturing sites creating a barrier between them and the community. Annual open days work really well as part of a community engagement plan. They give local people the opportunity to visit the plant, take a tour, meet the staff and join in fun family activities. Holding this kind of event helps to build bridges with the local community and often becomes a much anticipated activity. We can also build regular community forums into the campaign – these enable local people to air their views and for the plant management to discuss any queries before they become big issues.
7) Build relationships with schools
If you don’t have a good relationship with your local schools, this can be a great place to start. We have over 15 years’ experience of working with both primary and secondary schools and we could establish and retain a relationship with them on your behalf.
With primary schools, we recommend you carry out activities or have one of your Apprentices speak to a class or year group. Design competitions work well and you could give away a prize for the best, say, safety poster. Any competitions could be run within the school, or between nearby schools, and we would organise judging and prize giving to generate more media interest.
Secondary schools are likely to be a good source of potential new staff for recruitment. Our PR activities could involve setting a Business Challenge for pupils, as well as offering work experience placements. Many schools look to build close links with businesses and they often welcome speakers who want to talk about opportunities in their organisations and to give students guidance on what skills, qualifications and training are needed.
8) Keep Communication channels open through newsletters
As part of our community engagement campaigns, there would be a number of positive PR stories generated each month for your organisation. It’s important to let stakeholders know about these and we would produce a number of stakeholder newsletters, to be distributed to staff, local residents, councillors and other influential parties. These should showcase good work with charities, the environment and schools. We would also post these stories in the news section of your website and send them out to the local media.
9) Keep in touch with the local media
The main reason that many of our construction and manufacturing clients choose to work with us is because of our excellent relationships with the media. It is very important to keep the media on side and we are strong believers in meeting the media and inviting them, where relevant, to activities at the plant.
Our aim is to keep the lines of communication with the media open as this means it is more likely that they will be supportive of what you are doing – there’s nothing worse than when a journalist approaches a plant and they are told “no comment”. Our expertise, particularly in crisis management, will ensure that positive relationships are retained with the media and that they come to us first with any issues or queries before they make the news.
10) Make use of social media channels
These days, social media cannot be ignored and businesses need to embrace it and use it for communicating with many of their stakeholders. For example, a disgruntled local resident wanting to complain about a business could post something on Facebook, and this could then be quickly shared by thousands of people. Many people choose to complain and raise issues on Twitter too.
Not having an active Twitter or Facebook account does not mean that you avoid any criticism, in fact, it makes it worse. We can closely monitor and take care of your social media accounts, which means you can respond to any issues quickly and sort them out “offline”. Social media channels are also great for sharing stories, photos and videos of good work in the community.
If you would like to discuss how we could help with your community engagement, contact our PR team on 01709 300130 or email email@example.com