This was our final instruction some years ago to a client well known for courtesy towards its own clients. Coffee was always served with hand-made biscuits. Our client was keen to have local residents respond positively to a development proposal and had arranged a public meeting in the village hall. Emotions were running high amongst the local residents by the time Phillips Profile was asked to become involved; too late for us to suggest an alternative to the public meeting advertised. Our instruction regarding the biscuits sadly also failed to register with the client, and sure enough, along with the cups of tea served at the close of the volatile meeting were hand-made biscuits. It was small comfort to have our guidance vindicated by an irate resident snorting to his neighbour as they were leaving that they were being bribed by ‘posh biscuits’.
There is more than one lesson to be learned from this cautionary tale.
So much of a developer’s time at the outset of a project is taken up with planning regulations, meetings with planners, architectural drawings, groundwork plans, delivery routes to the site, the city council, the county council, local environmental expectations, that the ‘soft’ diplomacy towards local residents becomes an afterthought.
Wrong. It should be the first thought.
The priority of any developer or business intending to bring major change to a neighbourhood should be to keep the local emotional temperature down. Unfortunately, it rarely is the priority. Time and again the required period of consultation is mishandled by the incoming organisation. Insensitive, clumsy, patronising, are all accusations levelled by residents at incomers. The latter’s consultation communication, more often than not appearing too late in the proceedings, raises hackles even before the consultation begins.
Make the consultation appropriate to the residents.
The expression ‘give the job to the person who will do it best’ could have been invented for public consultation with local residents. A busy developer is focused on delivery, not on creating the right environment for the delivery to be acceptable. This is the change maker. Use an experienced communications team.
Then you won’t serve posh biscuits.