What's so different about doing communication on projects?

Projects by their very nature aren’t business as usual, so the communication approach shouldnt be either. So, what do we need to be thinking about when planning our project communications?

Understanding the impact

The amount of money being spent on a project is not always a good indicator of the impact that the project will have. Sometimes, a seemingly insignificant change can have a high impact on stakeholders and reputation. Communicators need to understand the impact. Assessing this may be the role of business change colleagues but even if this is the case, communicators as guardians of reputation need to be part of the process.

You really do need to plan

Communication practitioners haven’t always been great at planning – I was as guilty as the next person! But in projects you can’t get away with that. I love the discipline of having milestones to hit – it reminds me of my days as a print journalist, an environment where deadlines are pretty much immovable.

Right stakeholder, right time

Stakeholder relationships matter whatever the context of your communication, but on projects they are key. Without good stakeholder engagement a project won’t succeed. There are many stakeholder models out there, but the important thing with projects is to understand what part a stakeholder will play in its delivery and when the best time is to engage.

In addition, and like many other communication roles, project communication demands political awareness (of the politics within the project and among stakeholders), the ability to draw on a range of communication skills and skill in commissioning work that can’t be delivered from within the team.

Its different from a personal perspective too. Projects have a finite life, which means that they aren’t a ‘job for life’. That unsettles some people but can also be exciting offering the prospect of new challenges.

For me, the variety and pace of projects make them the best places to work!

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About the author

Ann Pilkington

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy, a leading provider of public relations and communication education.  Her special areas of interest are internal communication and project communication.

Ann leads PR Academy’s CIPR internal comms certificate.

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