This paper was printed as Chapter 5 in the GPM state-of-the-art book Dimensions of Project Management edited by H. ReschkeŠ & H. Schelle and published by Springer-Verlag in 1990. The book involved 29 authors from 16 countries and was assembled in honor of Roland W. Gutsch's 65th birthday. Roland, a personal friend, was founder and long-time leader of the International Project Management Association in Europe.

Abstract | Introduction | What is | Dimensions | Internal Culture
Corporate Culture | Influencing Environment | Internal Strategies
Surroundings | External Strategies | Stakeholders | Public Relations
Examples | Recent Projects | Consultants | Summary | References

Project Public Relations

Traditional management has long since recognized the classic Input-Process-Output model with its management feedback loop for controlling output, see Figure 3. Dynamic managers also recognize that opening communication channels in both directions constitutes a powerful motivator at the operative level. Whether quality information is presented in verbal, written or graphical form, improvement in performance can be quite remarkable. Indeed, many knowledge workers demand it, and the Japanese have built their industrial reputation on the "quality circle", which uses this principal.

Figure 3: Traditional management feedback

Figure 3: Traditional management feedback

The principal is just as true in the field of projects, though regretfully much less evident on construction projects. Nevertheless, on a major project, especially if it is publicly funded, providing a general information center is quite normal. A more proactive stance, or positive feed forward, is usually known as Public Relations, or just PR, and plays a vital in the favorable influence of the environment of a complex project. This public relations feed forward concept is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Public relations feed forward concept

Figure 4: Public relations feed forward concept

To a surprisingly large extent, the project team's ability to exercise this positive feed forward will determine their ability to control the project in terms of its final cost and schedule.

The Public Relations Plan

Good public relations requires a strong identity, a planned program and concrete goals, and commences with appointing someone to be responsible. That person must be outgoing and positive, yet able and willing to listen. He or she must be capable of preparing carefully constructed text and presentations, and be able to work through a program systematically. Like every other major function of the project management process, the PR function should be conducted like a sub-project.

In developing a PR plan, the following eight steps are recommended. It will be noted that many of the recommendations made earlier are incorporated.

  1. Know the project organization and its objectives thoroughly
  2. Determine who the interested publics will be and the characteristics of each
  3. Establish the relative importance of each to the project, and in particular, identify the "high risk" areas
  4. Assess the current reputation of the sponsoring organization as it is perceived by each of the interested groups
  5. Determine appropriate action in each case
  6. Develop strategy, resource requirements, priorities and schedule which are in sympathy with the project itself
  7. Implement the PR program
  8. Continuously monitor the effectiveness of the program during its execution, and adjust as necessary for optimum results

Ensuring the Effectiveness of the PR Plan

What are the hallmarks of successful PR? Here is a top ten check list of a good public relations program:

  1. Develop quality information about the benefits of the project
  2. Care and concern genuinely expressed for the project's stakeholders
  3. Timely (rapid) response provided to information requests
  4. Information requirements anticipated and provided ahead of time
  5. Genuinely sincere appreciation expressed to a stakeholder for their inquiry
  6. Flexible personal responses provided, where special issues dictate
  7. Recovery from inevitable lapses of services during implementation, in ways that impress
  8. Project team members empowered to make decisions to solve urgent and obvious problems
  9. Stakeholder-friendly policies and procedures established
  10. Stakeholder-friendly facilities available both during project implementation, as well as subsequently
Identifying The Project Stakeholders  Identifying The Project Stakeholders

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