by Mohammed Sharique Anwar, a Dubai-based PR and Communications practitioner with an acute focus on the MENA construction markets.
The year-2020 will go down in history as one of the most disastrous years for the businesses. Amid the clamp on revenue and cash-flow, tiding it over without lay-offs was nothing short of a miracle; particularly, for the GCC-based construction companies. In the first half of the annus horribilis, the region witnessed a staggering slump of 20% in the new project awards. With that and several other significant factors in mind, the region’s construction industry experts were found to be putting their heads together to check if the force majeur clauses could be invoked to safeguard their companies’ interests in the wake of Covid-19.
Despite the peaks and valleys in the local market throughout the year, many construction businesses successfully swam against the tide. However, they often forgot to build up their own brands and reputations, when most needed, while committing resources to building villas, hospitals and shopping malls for their clients. It reminds me of an old adage: the nearer the church, the farther from God.
Here is a case – “In the year just passed by, we fared much better and exceeded our own expectations. In terms of the sales volume, we beat our competitors fair and square. To continue with the same pace and spirit, hiring an experienced hand in sales or in marketing is much better than investing in PR & Communications.” These are the words that I heard during my interaction with the chief financial officer of a large construction company. Not only that, there are a bunch of other reasons why construction firms shy away from hiring a PR practitioner.
In quest of the budget control, it has become commonplace for most construction firms to easily overlook or discount the values of PR & communications profession as a whole. Some of these firms are badly trapped in the make-believe that the services a PR firm or expert offers are good for nothing in the absence of unfavourable events, like crises, disputes or clashes of business interests. Is it really true? Not in the least! PR is more than meets the eye.
There are very many reasons why PR & Communications must be on front and centre of your business strategies. Here are the top four:
Reputation: Whether it is a high-profile industry event or a one-on-one sales meeting or just a walk-in interview, the company reputation takes a front seat. Nowadays, every construction firm has an online presence to bring mass-level awareness about its products, service offerings or mergers and acquisitions. However, if not done well, it is not done well, at all.
Your agreeable prospects, potential investors and future recruits invest ample time to check your social media pages to find out if the so-called firm is real or even exists. They start to form their opinions, positive or negative, about your company based on the information available on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn etc.
Every sentence on these social media platforms acts as a documented endorsement to your company’s mission and vision. A single word of the post, clip or news article can make or break your construction firm’s standing and dent its credibility beyond repair. Needless to say, a wrong word used on a good platform can bring the heavens down, let alone businesses. The growth of your construction firm is based on those unseen human faces and how they react to your digital infrastructures, social media posts, informative business articles or well-thought-out press releases. This is where and when a PR & communications expert jumps into rise to the occasion.
Branding: Branding is all about what the business owners want their companies to be known for. Only storming the internet with sales and marketing pitches or old-school business ideas cut no ice in the age of technological advancement and innovation. Crafting a customer-centric identity without an accurate and purposeful branding is nothing but a pipe-dream when the competition is cut-throat.
Without an impactful branding plan in action, a construction company can stay afloat, but it can’t be the role-model. Only a seasoned PR professional with a hands-on industry experience can manage it with powerful PR strategies. These strategies go beyond the company logo, its website and the graphic elements attached to it.
Recognition: Due to the multi-dimensional competitions emanating from every corner, every construction firm desires to be ahead of its competitors. A few firms are effortlessly noticeable in some regions because of their iconic projects that act as a strong point of reference and a history of remarkable achievements that impress the prospects and existing clients alike. Thanks to their continued successes in the face of complexities of project planning, execution and delivery, they receive awards and accolades from industries, governments and other stakeholders. The outstanding performances of these firms speak for themselves round-the-clock.
The PR experts play the lead role in splashing those success stories all over the world to penetrate the undealt with regions using the latest storytelling styles, tools and state-of-the-art technologies. When everyone on your company’s payroll is unfamiliar with and unknown to a new business geography, a PR professional gets busier to lay out the foundation of your business activities. This is how a PR & communications practitioner makes the uneven turf even for others from sales, marketing and business development teams to achieve the commonly shared.
Global outreach: A construction firm must stay alert to adapt to the emerging tech and non-tech trends sweeping across the construction industry. The industry, which is known for vertical, horizontal and geographical fragmentations, establishing and solidifying strong relationships with the stakeholders is at the core of staying relevant amid growing uncertainty and rising competitiveness in the global market.
Reaching out to the global community via PR & Communications campaigns is a fruitful strategy to bring awareness about your company’s recent achievements, new project awards or successful execution and delivery of the old high-profile projects. Irrespective of the market conditions, large conglomerates employ PR & Communications experts or tie-up with more than one hands-on PR agency to get maximum business gains. This sure-fire strategy pays off in terms of the firm’s enhanced visibility, positive perception about the firm and its offerings which can multiply the firm’s ROI in the final reckoning. With the growing impacts of digitisation, no one wants to engage with a business entity which remains undiscovered or has an obscure identity.