Establishing a Positive Attitude
It is important to understand that everyone who works on the project contributes to its image, and all contributions must be positive, yet without exaggeration. An effective PPRP requires a strong identity setup within the project, its own concrete goals, and a well-planned strategy to achieve those goals. It must also recognize, reinforce, and actively promote the objectives of the project. So, the PPRP must be evident at all levels of the project organization, and should aim at improving the credibility of the project team and therefore the team's ability to perform.
Whether the project is publicly or privately funded, the primary benefits will undoubtedly go to the project's owners. Nevertheless, there will be secondary benefits for the public, so the PPRP should be designed to promote them. Such benefits could include:
- Increased employment
- Improved services
- Increased demand for local goods and services
- A trickle-down effect of related commercial activities
- Increased primary and secondary contributions to local taxes
A PPRP has all the characteristics of a project in its own right, but it is conducted within the main project. It requires a leader who is outgoing and positive about the project, yet able and willing to listen. Such a leader must be capable of preparing carefully constructed text and presentations; of responding to media questions rapidly and honestly; and of working through a PPRP steadily and systematically.
The following eight steps are recommended for developing a PPRP plan:
- Know the enterprise and its objectives thoroughly
- Identify the interested public stakeholders, and the characteristics of each
- Establish stakeholders' relative importance to the project. In particular, determine the high-risk areas
- Assess the current reputation of the sponsoring organization, as it is perceived by each of the public stakeholders
- Decide appropriate action in each case
- Develop an integrated strategy that includes resource requirements, priorities, and schedule consistent with the project for which the PPRP is being developed
- Carry out the plan
- Continuously monitor the effectiveness of the program during its application and adjust as necessary for optimum results.
A typical philosophy behind a PPRP would include the following goals:
- To maintain internal project communications that promote a good understanding of the project by the workforce and members of the project team
- To keep the public up-to-date on the progress and performance of the project
- To be open with public information
- To promote and effectively respond to any misleading information that may be circulating about the project or its people
- To develop audio and visual aids and information sources that give substance to the above
The PPRP leader must design visual presentations to create confidence, trust, and pride in the project. Presentations should not be more than four to six minutes. If there is a technical story to tell, tell it in terms that a grade eight student can understand. The technical story should be in keeping with the short TV commercials to which we have become so accustomed. Too much detail must be avoided, but the presenter should be ready with such details for the time when a so-called expert comes along to question the project. A scale model, whether of the physical entity or one that shows the underlying concept, is an excellent demonstration tool and well worth considering.