Having a rock solid project is a good start for businesses and organisations looking to benefit from the infrastructure boom, but in a competitive environment, a PR campaign can make all the difference.
In case you hadn’t noticed, infrastructure is set to become the number one economic fix on the political horizon for the foreseeable future. A bi-partisan goal steeped in deep nostalgia and concern about the super fluidity of the modern age.
The idea of the state funding great projects appeals crosses national and political lines. Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan taps into this sentiment about certitudes slipping away. In Australia, Tony Abbott wanted to anoint himself the Infrastructure PM.
On the progressive side of politics, a positive role for the state has never died, although curiously they seem to be slow on the uptake here, having been wrong-footed by their political counterparts, notably economic dries, who decried the prospect of any positive role for the state following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It’s a situation unthinkable even a decade ago as economic rationalism emerged triumphant after the Cold War, but after 30 years of economic rationalism, a calamitous Global Financial Crisis in 2007, and sluggish growth and spending, infrastructure has burst through like a promise.
In Australia, the environment is absolutely ripe for infrastructure spending to spike. Low interest rates, low wages growth, low investment. Infrastructure projects promise three key things:
- Money to employers who then hire workers
- A method of financial redistribution and circulation
- Services for the community and businesses
Amongst the Australian population, infrastructure spending is highly popular. A 2016 IPSOS poll showed 59% believed there was not enough infrastructure spending, while 70% believed it was vital to economic growth.
That all sounds promising, and is for those organisations and businesses who are tendering for government contracts, but some organisations will fare better than others.
Rising tides or squeaky wheels?
There’s a belief that the rising tide of infrastructure spending will lift all boats and flow through the economy. It’s a comforting maxim, but a more apt analogy would be to say the squeaky wheels get the most grease.
The reality is that there is a limited pool of money while the scope of potential projects is wide. In a general sense the benefits of infrastructure spending do flow through the economy, but the choice cuts go to the best organised.
Decisions on infrastructure spending are not decided simply on the strength of a project proposal, but on the relations that an organisation has been able to cultivate; publicly, within their sector, and politically.
An outward facing campaign to win the public to your project idea goes a long way to helping convince politicians as to the political value of your campaign. Not an insignificant consideration, especially for politicians occupying marginal seats.
In the age of social and digital media, it’s possible through targeted advertising to very quickly build up a strong support base for your project proposal. Videos, blogs, thought leadership pieces will help capture the public imagination. Some will be hard-headed and stat driven, others appealing to sentiment.
And of course getting your story into the traditional media, with key messages, case-studies, subject matter experts, and ambassadors remains the best way to lift the profile of your project and organisation.
The more organisations with authority you can pull into your orbit and publicity campaign, the greater will be the reach, legitimacy and impact of your project. Third parties vouching for your project gives it not only the lustre of legitimacy, but a broader sense of purpose, benefit, and potential group of supporters.
It goes without saying that political lobbying is incredibly valuable when tending for government funded projects. Inviting politicians to visit a project site is not simply a great media/social media opportunity for you and a politician; it presents you with an opportunity to deliver your key messages and benefits to the politician, with a take away kit and punchy infographic.
Inviting politicians to an event so that they can get a fuller understanding of your project and its benefits is invaluable in terms of not only cultivating relationships, but understanding some of the potholes and problems you might face and need to adjust for.
And of course there is also the prospect of running digital campaigns in electorates to canvass support from different sides of politics for your proposal. ‘Candidates X and Y support Project Z, which will add $15 million to the local economy and 1,000 jobs’.
In short, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign is invaluable in helping you stand out from the army of tenders that the government will receive over the next decade or more.