Britain is known for its world-class expertise in construction encompassing architecture, design and engineering, and the green construction sector.
This is great news considering that the global construction industry is forecast to grow by over 70 per cent by 2025. As well as the abundant opportunities this presents for UK-based construction companies, there are also challenges.
One challenge focuses on the image of the construction industry; more needs to be done to influence how it is perceived by the public.
This challenge was also highlighted in the government’s Construction 2025 report published last year, which outlined a strategy for the industry and government to work together to ensure that British construction companies are best placed to leverage the aforementioned global opportunity.
Enhancing the image of the construction industry is not something that can happen overnight. It is a long-term process.
There are already positive initiatives being undertaken by individual organisations as well as national campaigns, such as the Considerate Constructors Scheme, which are working to build sustainable relationships with the public.
The long-term process of building trust or indeed raising the profile of your business requires a strategy. The planning and executing of such a strategy is vitally important, and very often those working in the construction sector will seek the counsel of a public relations agency.
In a competitive marketplace it is crucial, regardless of whether you are an SME or a large organisation, to choose the right PR agency.
I recently commissioned the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Leeds to carry out an exploratory survey, to investigate client management and billing practices in the PR industry.
The findings of the exploratory survey revealed a worrying accountability gap between PR agencies and their clients, and that work needs to be done to demonstrate that clients are receiving a return on their investment.
The findings of the survey also provide a useful checklist of what companies in the construction sector should look for when thinking of engaging the services of a PR agency.
As a quick and easy guide, I have listed three key findings of the exploratory survey and my recommendations.
- Just 21 per cent of PR agencies that took part in the survey said they always provided an estimate of the return on investment to clients.
My recommendation: Any PR agency that you engage should be explicit about the impact of their work and how this links to achieving your business objectives. We recommend that this information is requested and included in the PR agency’s initial proposal to you. After all, you do not want to be paying a PR agency to deliver work that is of no value to your business. If a PR agency is not able to provide you with an estimate of ROI, look elsewhere.
- Only 41 per cent of agencies provide their clients with a service level agreement.
My recommendation: Outlining basic facts such as the availability of service and how a PR agency will operate to best serve the needs of their clients is essential. Not only does it highlight professionalism, but there are also clearly defined boundaries between the responsibilities of the agency and the client. Always request a service level agreement and a proposal detailing exactly what they propose to deliver within an agreed time frame.
- 59 per cent of agencies always keep their ‘pitch’ team as the team on the client account.
My recommendation: There’s nothing worse than being impressed by a team of people working for a PR agency, who have presented great ideas to you, only to find that when the contract has been signed they are replaced by different (and sometimes more junior) members of the team. Rather than waiting for the possibility of this scenario to occur, we recommend that you ask the agency upfront who will be working on your business. Ask the agency to provide biographies of the team, so that you can find out about their experiences. If you feel that the team is not up to scratch, tell the agency. It’s in their interests to make sure that you are happy with the skills and experiences of the people who will be representing your business.
Engaging the services of a public relations agency can make a tangible difference to your company, but as I have outlined in my recommendations choosing the right agency is key.
Once you are satisfied that an agency’s practices are transparent and accountable, they can begin the task of differentiating you from your competitors and help you to achieve your business objectives.
Clare Ward is the founder and managing director of Clare Public Relations. The agency specialises in PR for the building and construction industries.
101 people responded to the survey with 92 completing it in full. Just over half the respondents (55%) were based in London and the South East of England, with the remainder distributed roughly across the UK.