How to Communicate Effectively During Retail Construction Projects
By: Kelsey Cleary
From quick landscaping updates and parking lot repavements to long-term façade renovations and roadwork, construction near and within retail shopping centers is not always a welcome sight. Moreover, construction projects can result in increased traffic congestion, changes in tenant hours and unhappy guests and shoppers.
So, how can retailers and shopping centers operators prepare and tailor their communications plan to address the impact of a construction project? We’ve compiled a few takeaways based on our experience working with all types of centers and retailers throughout the United States.
Information is Power
For retailers and shopping center operators faced with a construction project, timely, accurate information is a key component of effective communications. Make it a habit to check city, county and/or state Department of Public Works and Department of Transportation websites weekly. Owners, operators and retailers should also connect with construction crews as early as possible to find out their plan.
Once contact with the crew is made, identify a reliable direct contact to send you real-time updates if plans or timelines change. When given a slated range of completion by the construction crew, always plan for the longest possible time and anticipate hiccups along the way.
Looping In Employees
Once you have a clear understanding of the scope of the construction project, it’s time to get together with your team—the engines of the operation. Without a great internal communications plan to ensure all your employees know how to communicate the upcoming inconveniences to customers, business during this time may struggle.
The easiest way to deliver a consistent message internally is to hold a team meeting where you can discuss the upcoming construction. The goal is to create talking points for all employees, and ensure you’re all on the same page.
Whether it be a 2-day shutdown of a road for paving or a 3-week re-route for significant road renovations, the message your employees are giving to customers needs to stay consistent with the timeline – explain what they can expect, and what your store is doing to make it easier on them.
Communicating with Tenants
Once team members and property managers are looped in, it’s crucial for owners and managers to give timely updates to their tenants.
Sending out email updates is an easy way to ensure all tenants receive the information. However, we’ve learned that not every retailer or store manager is going to have access to email. Go a step further and connect with each tenant in-person to communicate the impact of the upcoming construction project, discuss concerns and hear feedback.
Once your talking points are set and tenants and on-site personnel know their role, it’s time to share the news with the public.
Social media is often the first communication channel leveraged for distributing news updates, and is a very powerful tool for connecting with the public. Channels like Facebook and Twitter can help you relay your message quickly and effectively to shoppers, while providing real-time updates on construction progress. These tools can also be used to communicate any changes to your hours of operation.
Your website will also play a key role in keeping the public informed as to how they can navigate any upcoming construction projects. Incorporating a custom banner or pop-up on the home screen will provide easy access to timely updates, as well as reinforce any key messages related to operations during construction.
Leverage the Media
Local media outlets are there to help, and if there is known construction or inconveniences coming to a certain shopping center or storefront, they will want to help alert consumers about it and give them the best options to avoid any difficulties.
When working with the media, designate one spokesperson to represent your business. In many cases, this should be the business owner or property manager. Stick to a few talking points, including what the construction entails, how long it will last and the best options to avoid it.
Communications in Action During Construction
Identity retail real estate public relations client, Green Oak Village Place, recently found themselves in a difficult situation. A major construction project was scheduled near the property, requiring a three-week closure of a bridge leading into their center.
Once notified of the upcoming project, Identity worked Green Oak Village Place to develop a proactive strategy, with specific messages tailored to the center’s key audiences.
Identity’s creative team designed an infographic mapping out alternative routes that customers could take, and we placed this on their website, social media channels, and distributed it to key media contacts with a press release prior to the bridge closing. The mall management team kept in close contact with tenants by providing updates via clear, concise memos, as well as direct interaction with tenants throughout the construction project.
Clear Construction Communications
Consistent and ongoing communications is key in any construction scenario. Remember: Delivering the right message to your key audiences—employees, tenants, the general public and the media—can mean the difference between chaos and calmness.