Honeysuckle precinct ideas

Creating great places in Honeysuckle

The urban transformation of the Honeysuckle precinct is continuing, with the invigoration and future development of the remaining parcels of land at the western end of the city.

The Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC) recently invited community members to join the conversation about the future use and function of the western end of the harbour foreshore precinct.

Share your ideas Honeysuckle

The project

HCCDC engaged Mara Consulting to conduct community engagement on Honeysuckle West. We wanted to know what you would like to see in the future development of Honeysuckle. We were particularly keen to hear about initiatives that encouraged improved environmental, social and economic outcomes for the development sites and surrounds.

This was a great opportunity to provide your input to help shape the final stage of Honeysuckle’s transformation.

Engagement was open between 24 September to 18 October 2020

Feedback was sought from the broad community via a comprehensive advertising and promotion campaign including print and digital advertising alongside editorial and direct email.

Feedback was sought via a survey, digital ideas wall and directly via phone and email. Visit the project page here

The next step is to review all of the feedback and develop draft objectives and test these with focus groups. These will then be included with a summary of all the engagement activities and feedback in an outcomes report.

For more information email honeysuckleideas@maraconsulting.com.au

Thanks for being part of the Honeysuckle ideas conversation!

Need help with your community engagement project? Think pink!

Contact Mara

8 tips for great communication

Anyone working in corporate communications would have heard the phrase – oh, you better flag that with comms...<insert eye-rolling here>

In my experience, the majority of the time this phrase gets muttered way to late in the process and the comms person is left to wrangle a pending disaster.

So, what can you do about it? You need to change the way you approach communications and here are our eight tips for getting your communications in great shape.

8. Remember your staff

I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your internal stakeholders up to date. Finding out information about the business you work for via an article in the local paper sucks. If this happens on a regular basis your employee engagement will plummet along with the trust and respect of your most valuable asset – your people.

When it comes to internal communication, there is no such thing as oversharing. Find out how people want to get their information then get it to them often.

Need inspiration? Check out the winners of the 2020 Ragan's Employee Communication Awards

7. Get in early

Think of communications as a risk management tool. Early, effective and ongoing communication can pave the way for a hassle-free project. By treating poor communication as a risk, it becomes part of your standard project planning for the life of the project. Here are some samples to get you thinking of risk from a communications perspective.Stakeholder: Employees and contractors

Risk: Sharing incorrect information about campaign to community members
Mitigation: Provide project information including key messages to staff
Action: Brief staff at all staff team meetings

Risk: Missing out on in-house knowledge being captured and considered
Mitigation: Encourage staff to participate in consultation activities
Actions: Send ‘all staff’ email at start of project with links to activities and further project information; provide staff with key information summary

Stakeholder: Elected representatives

Risk: Lack of awareness about project could lead to negative media coverage which damages service provider’s reputation
Mitigation: Ensure elected representatives and their key staff understand non-negotiables for project engagement process as well as key dates and activities
Actions: Provide briefing note prior to campaign going live, include contact details for lead if further information is required; provide regular reminders via email about project deadlines; provide flyers for MP Office to encourage community participation

6. If you aren't sure how people like to get information, just ask them.

There is no need to guess or assume the best communications channels. Just slow down and ask people how they like to get their information. It might be a phone call or email, it might be twitter, if might be a flyer in the mailbox or it might be Tim at the butcher shop. Take the time to get to know your audience, build trust and watch the effectiveness of your communication soar.

5. Proactive is better than reactive

Nothing makes you lose credibility with your audience than admitting that you knew about an issue/problem and decided not to say anything. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is a bad strategy, someone ALWAYS finds out.

When you are planning communications think about the things that are most likely to be of interest and address them directly.

4. Coordinate communications activities

It may seem logical, but I have seen it over and over again – right hand not talking to the left. If you are building a new road, you might want to check that there are no plans to replace cabling under the road in the near future.

Your credibility will be out the window if you have a ribbon cutting with all the fanfare one day and the next day, excavators roll in and dig up all your fine work.

Simple conversations can save your budget and your reputation.

3. The boss isn’t always the best spokesperson

People respond to information by passionate people. If you have someone that has come up with a quirky solution to a challenge, let them talk about it. No one will be as passionate as they are, and they will be able to explain and answer questions on the fly. Don’t be afraid to substitute a CEO or Chairperson for a subject matter expert.

2. Keep it simple

Effective communication doesn’t have to be a complex production with a glossy finish. It just needs to be clear, authentic and genuine. Take a page out of the playbook from former NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

During the 2019/2020 Australian bushfires, he was providing daily masterclasses in effective communication. He was clear in his delivery, he knew the detail, wasn’t afraid of saying he didn’t know the answer and showed empathy both on and off the camera.

1. Technical problems don’t stop projects, people stop projects

What’s the worst-case scenario for an infrastructure project? Being delayed or shelved, not because you can’t find a cost-effective design solution but because a high-profile person speaks out in opposition.

Complaints, protests, negative media coverage – these are all manageable if you have plan. Sure, you won’t be able to make everyone happy but if you are clear in your message and get the information to people that are interested and have influence over your project then you are on your way.

Effective communication isn’t rocket science, you just need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

If you don’t know where to start, give Mara a call – this is our jam!

What else can we help with? Maybe some LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® or,  if things have already gone south, some crisis and issues management advice.

Check out our projects list to see what we have been working one.

Business as usual for us, but how are you going?

Business as usual - Crisis communications

In these rapidly changing times, we want to let all our clients know it's business as usual for the team at Mara Consulting. We regularly work remotely and have everything they need to meet and exceed your expectations. Our leadership team is working behind the scenes on our business continuity to make sure are as prepared as possible for whatever COVID-19 recommendations are made.

We are committed to the health and well-being of all our people, our clients and our communities. As such we will be making any necessary adjustments to our engagement programs by implementing social distancing measures as recommended by NSW Health.

Our top tips for communicating in a crisis

  1. Talk to your people first - internal communications is often left until last during times of crisis. Your leaders, managers and staff are the most important part of your business so make regular communication with them a priority. There is nothing worse than your staff here critical information second hand via a third party or the local media.
  2. Stay calm – it’s easy to get stressed and feel anxious in a time of crisis. Staying calm is essential so you can think clearly. This can be tough for many decision makers, business owners and those in leadership roles. Find someone you can talk to and get it out of your system because your team need you with a clear head to make decisions. Then get to planning and put in place your communication with stakeholders.
  3. Pick the right spokesperson - whether it is your CEO, your chief communications officer or another member of your leadership team; the key is to pick a trusted spokesperson, make sure they are briefed before stepping in front of a microphone and are a consistent and unwavering source of truth. If there was anything positive to come out of the recent bushfires, it was the phenomenal job by Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. He was a genuine and trusted spokesperson and a respected leader throughout.
  4. Share often - reinforcing known information and acknowledging unknown infomation is better than saying nothing at all. If no information is being shared, people will find sources of information elsewhere. Make sure you are the go to for updates on areas your are responsible for.

Be prepared

When faced with a crisis, there are few options for proactively managing the situation, it’s about being prepared in an environment with little certainty and sometimes without the facts. This probably means you’re under pressure to make decisions on the fly. Stop, stay calm and develop a clear communication framework for dealing with the unfolding crisis is a great place to start.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 and are not sure where to start to get your communications in order, think pink and get in touch.

All the best,

Kelly and the team from Mara.

Why do I need a strategy I hear you ask?

Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front – ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.

Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front - ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.

Organisations regularly set and review objectives and goals for the business but rarely do that link those with engagement and communication activities. If you are using a website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters, emails, community events then you are communicating with an audience, potential client/customer or stakeholder.

Completing a situation analysis (fancy way of saying the who, what and why you are communicating) will give you the ability to better target your resources and develop a plan which sets out activities that cover the when and how.

For example, you might be about to lodge a development application with the local council but it's likely to raise objections from the community. This is no way a full strategy, but it gives you an understanding of the steps to take:

Communication objective: to reduce the likelihood that objections to the proposal are lodged with the council and gain support for the project.

Who are you communicating with (stakeholders): Councillors, neighbours, local community groups, council officers, business groups and media.

What are you communicating to stakeholders: Information about the project, benefits (economic, social, environmental).

Why are you communicating with stakeholders: To seek feedback from stakeholders potentially for input into the design, reduce likelihood of objections, provide accurate information about the project, reduce misinformation spreading.

Once you have set your goals and know who, what and why you are communicating it is easier to determine the best channel to use to achieve those goals set out in your activity plan and outline your key messages.

In the above example,

When and how to communicate with stakeholders: prior to lodging the development application - a briefing to Councillors, host a drop in day with a presentation/images/maps for neighbours and interested community members, conduct a survey, seek feedback forms, place information on your website and social media, host a visit to the site, have experts available to answer technical questions, attend a council meeting to address the public and provide information to relevant media explaining the project.

These basic principles apply whether it is for a specific project or when developing a communication strategy for your business.

If you have a project or want to develop a communications strategy and plan for your business, contact Mara for a chat, we'll help put you on the right track.

Take a look at Mara's 60 second communication strategy review tool.

Is publicity worth the investment?

“If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR”, a famous quote by Bill Gates but what would you do with your last dollar? Do you place any value in PR and the potential that comes with generating newsworthy or popular social media content?

Reading a blog post from StartUpSmartabout the 10 milestones to hit in your first year in business, it reminded us that businesses often forget to tell people about the milestones in their business, whether it is celebrating a new staff member, an anniversary or new products and services. Milestones identified in your business plan are great opportunities to include in your public relations/communication strategy.

Public relations is all about connecting with your audience, customers, stakeholders, clients and in today’s world of social media, it’s about providing regular and relevant content to your loyal “followers” and “likers”.

Creating a strategy doesn’t have to be very complicated, but it should guide you through a thought process to get the most out of the story and most importantly, identify what’s in it for your followers. It’s easy to forget but your customers, clients and stakeholders will only pay attention if it’s relevant to them. So, take the time to put yourself in their shoes.

Here are Mara’s tips:

  • Write down your objective. 

What is it that you want to achieve? It could be as simple as increasing visitors to your website by 20 per cent, persuade people to choose your product or service, or to encourage your stakeholders to provide feedback on a project.

(For complex projects such as reducing the risks of objections during the exhibition of a development proposal Mara recommends seeking professional advice and assistance.)

  • Develop key messages.

Key messages are just phrases to clearly articulate your story to an audience. Clear - simple - memorable.

  • What’s the hook?

The hook is just the thing that will get people interested in what you are saying. Think biggest, best, first, quirky, fear, emotion, hot button issue, exclusives, pictures, human stories, relatable, concise information, humour.

  • Identify communication channels.

There are many types of channels that you can use to get your message out.  Social media, media releases, letters to the editor, paid advertising, interviews with tv/radio/newspapers, opinion pieces, electronic newsletters, website updates are all options that you could use but not all of them will work effectively for your story. Focusing your attention and resources on where you will get best results is key.

  • A picture tells a thousand words.

People relate to images or pictures, particularly in social media posts.  Followers are more likely to click on a post if it contains an image, particularly photos that are relevant.

  • Write content and customise for each medium.

Each communication channel has a different audience, make sure what you are saying is appropriate for those stakeholders.

So, there you have it, a look at a simple strategy to promote a story. For professional advice or help with an up-coming project contact Mara for a coffee and a chatabout how we can help.