As noted in the introduction, the purpose of the paper is to present
a model PR program or Communication Plan for application on future
projects. The eight steps identified in developing the Plan, the
suggested program philosophy and possible audiences all point the
way towards gaining approval for its implementation. The overall
objective should be to create the most favorable climate in which
the project can be implemented efficiently.
Often the internal need to make sure that the corporate view is
clear to all those on the job, particularly one which covers a large
area such as a transit project, is paramount. Non-conformers can
be dangerous as they are perceived as having inside information
and can considerably lower the credibility of the project. A very
positive effort is necessary to avoid confrontation with the public.
The media is a fact of life in forming public opinion, they can
be an enemy or an ally. The key is to know them, be familiar with
them and get them to trust you. On a large project it is necessary
to talk to them all the time.
The specific Plan Objectives, and the extensive list of items for
developing a work breakdown make it clear that there are a large
number of items which will conceivably need attention. That all
the items listed could be beneficial will be self evident. However,
as with project management itself, the difficulty lies in quantifying
the potential results at the outset in order to justify the expense
of the program.
Perhaps the most telling justification for instituting some sort
of plan, is that no matter what the project, there will always be
some criticism. The cries of the critics will only be assuaged by
someone who has had the time and forethought to be ready with the
answers before the outcry gets out of hand. The cost of even a short
delay during the height of construction can be out of all proportion
to the cost of a little foresight and "oil on troubled waters".
The mark of a successful project is one in which those directly
involved complete it with a sense of a job well done, and those
only indirectly involved are left with an aura of pride and satisfaction.
The assistance of the Rapid Transit and Expo staffs and others
in contributing to this paper is gratefully acknowledged.
In this year 2001, with its high-tech advances and changes in public
attitudes and demands, one cannot help but reflect on those projects
of some fifteen years ago. In my view they provided very valuable
lessons in how to handle large infrastructure projects. Which, of
course, is why I have reproduced this paper on this web site! For
those who are not familiar with Vancouver, here are some observations
on each of the three projects.
Project #1: LNG
The proposal for this project was duly submitted. However, shortly
thereafter, the expected increases in energy prices did not materialize
(at least not then) and the provincial government abandoned its
proposal invitation. In fact, the Japanese, who then were very concerned
about their energy supplies to maintain their booming economy, found
that their needs were either over secured or otherwise did not rise
to the levels expected. Under these circumstances the project would
not have been viable.
Project #2: ALRT
The official opening of the Advanced Light Rapid Transit system,
or "Sky Train" as it is now called, was designed to provide
much needed transit service within Greater Vancouver as well as
additional access to the Expo 86 world-class exhibition. The system
was completed very successfully slightly under budget and ahead
of schedule. So much so, that the system survived a full scale trial
providing free public rides one weekend before the official opening
of the exhibition. In fact the system was tested at overload capacity.
Since then, considering the technological innovation involved in
this project, the system has performed remarkably well, especially
compared to similar systems built elsewhere then and since. In spite
of the high initial cost, in my view, it has been a considerable
asset to the area and a worthwhile return on investment. The line
has been extended and is currently being extended again.
Project #3: Expo 86
Expo 86 was a wonderfully fun time for all the visitors that it
brought from all over the world. It too was "within budget"
and opened as it must, on the due date. Bearing in mind the number
of exhibitors involving many different organizations and their respective
contractors, the project was a real challenge for the organizers
and required very determined project management. A few exhibitors
did fall by the way side, being unable to meet their committed dates.
The exhibition introduced Vancouver to the world and established
it as a world-class city. Unlike other exhibitions that have lost
money, there can be no doubt that it was a good return on investment.
Since then, of course, the temporary platforms over the water on
which some of the exhibits pavilions sat have long since been cleared
away and the original land is now the site of a large and expensive
high-rise downtown residential development.
FICE, FEIC, FCSCE, FPMI