2020: New Year, new building site

It’s the start of a new decade and it’s time to get creative when it comes to construction PR. Promoting a building site doesn’t have to be boring, as Jo Aitchison discusses in today’s blog.

A strong strategy

There’s been weeks of preparation. A project team has been appointed. Designs have been drawn up. You’ve lobbied members of the council. Planning permission has been granted. A public consultation has been held. CGIs have been released. Now, it’s time for the project to go onsite.

It’s now up to the marketing and PR teams to coordinate key stakeholders and devise a calendar of activity that will keep the attention of the public for potentially a number of years. Our job is to keep the public updated with progress, on side and informed. It’s also important to celebrate the project as an investment in the local economy and the social value it’s delivering for the area.

Let there be light

Light shows have become more and more popular. Towns and cities across the UK have even started hosting their own ‘light nights’, with buildings and iconic sites illuminated with colours and words. These events encourage residents to engage with the place their town or city in a new way and encourage exploration, as well as acting as a big tourist attraction. And, let’s be honest – it’s a bit of fun and children love the pretty lights.

There’s an opportunity here to get your building site in on the action.

There are companies that will work with you to create a story concept for your light show. It could tell the history of the site. Was your site a Victorian watermill in a former life? Or the home of a famous figure? Or perhaps your light show could update your audience on the building’s progress, depicting the timeline of events and what the building will eventually look like.

Your light show can then be projected onto the side of the partially constructed building. This will give the work a new dimension for passers by and reframe the site to become more of an ‘art piece’.

If your building project is in a city that already hosts a light night, team up with the council and work together to add your site to the light night trail. Alternatively, arrange your own!

Think outside the site

I loved Woodhead Group’s #SpaceLaunch activity in 2018, to mark progress at the National Space Centre (NSC), Leicester. The team launched a bolt into space, tracking its 103 mile, 115, 452 ft journey to the edge of space to create a promotional video. Students from a local school were invited to watch proceedings and learn about the work going on at NSC. The bolt was then used in the construction of NSC’s ‘launch pad’ extension.

Think outside the box. PR doesn’t have to be confined to the site.

Get offsite, go online

Promoting a building site doesn’t have to happen on the building site. You can create dedicated social media channels for the site from which to share regular updates or create a dedicated hashtag for all stakeholders to use every time they’re posting about the site’s progress.

In terms of content, the world is your oyster…

  • Video – film as much as you can. Whether it’s a fancy timelapse or a static webcam for viewers to follow the build’s progress live, video content is really useful
  • ‘Meet the team’ – introduce the public to members of the site team. Provide names to the faces they’re seeing onsite every day, humanising the process
  • Create a community – share information from the local area. Are there any cultural events happening nearby? What about sporting events? Is there a new coffee shop opening near the site? Genuinely connect with the community and make your social media channels relevant to them. This means they’re more likely to engage, follow and support your development

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

To round things off, we’re going back to basics. The press still love the good, old fashioned ground breaking ceremonies, time capsule events and topping outs. They really do work. However, there are ways you can make these ‘traditional’ onsite events slightly more exciting.

  • Catering options don’t have to be soggy sandwiches in a portacabin – think creatively. Is your site close to the sea, for example? Get a traditional fish and chip van onsite – or perhaps site adjacent – to really put a smile on your guests’ faces. No one can say no to fish and chips
  • Watch it live – film the event, with footage to be used afterwards. Or livestream it via your social media channels, to enable more people to ‘attend’
  • Think seasonally – is there a national day, holiday or festival you can theme your event around? Thinking creatively. Is there a significant anniversary that coincides with an event your planning? Eg, the birth of a celebrated local figure

By Jo Aitchison

Jo supports both consumer and B2B clients – working across food and drink, legal, and property sectors. She has experience writing for charity, retail, professional services and public sector clients – delivering creative campaigns and gaining regional and national coverage.