Just over a year ago, Amy Bodey and I set up Social Communications’ south west office in Bristol.

I’d returned from holiday to get straight into conversations ranging from planning for the coming year to buying new mugs for the office. Getting the printer to work during week one felt like a huge moment.

Since then, our work with those who are leading development in our region has been a core part of our work. We’re forever grateful to the many people who have given us their time over the last year and privileged to count some among our 12 clients.

So, it’s particularly exciting as we enter ‘year two’ to be supporting Bristol’s Planning, Law and Policy Conference as its only PR sponsor. We’ve come a long way in the last year!

Opportunities and challenges

There’s a huge amount happening in the West of England (which includes Bristol at its heart). The progress of its joint spatial plan and conversations about high rise development in Bristol generate interest. Progress continues with flagship developments at Filton and Temple Meads. And it will be interesting to see how next year’s local elections in parts of the region (aka ‘silly season’) play out. That’s before any mention of the B-word or (heaven forbid) another General Election. Brenda from Bristol will doubtless be chuffed at the prospect!

Why communication matters

Those who communicate well – early, continuously and strategically – stand a greater chance of success in these exciting and uncertain times. The government increasingly recognises the role public support plays in housing delivery. There’s always more to do, but this an important step that the industry should note.

By contrast, those who undervalue communication or take a ‘tick box’ approach to engagement increase their risk of running into problems. I know I would say this as I work in PR! But don’t take my word for it. Look at recent stories that criticise virtually any organisation for anything. Communication (or lack of) is cited as a major sticking point. As someone who’s worked in journalism and PR for 20 years, it pains me to see how bad practice – late, piecemeal, obsessively tactical –  exacerbates these issues. That’s a blog post for another day!

Our message for this year’s planning, law and policy conference in Bristol: communication is about much more than ‘selling the benefits’, important though this is. It needs a commitment to building relationships, trust and understanding – if not support – for what you’re trying to do. Clarity, transparency and a willingness to listen are central to that. It’s what we help our clients do every day. We’re looking forward to supporting them in the years ahead.

Good comms or bad comms?

What would you rather see achieved through your communications activity? If you’re at the conference this year, we’d love to hear from you. Come and speak to us at our stand or drop me an email. If you’re not going yet, there’s still an opportunity to go.

We hope to see you there!