Could an app improve the image of construction?

Could a construction app, helping improve project communications, help change the image of construction?

constructing excellenceLast week’s Constructing Excellence national members convention attracted about 90 people to talk about “The Image of Construction“. The event was curated by CE’s early career movement, G4C, and they invited speakers from the Considerate Constructors Scheme, the Construction Clients Group, Women in Construction, Turner & Townsend… and me.

As well as being a long-time supporter of Constructing Excellence (I sit on CE’s steering group and am a CE Collaborative Working Champion), I am also chair of the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations Construction and Property Special Interest Group, and it was in that role that I spoke to the conference. Earlier in the week, I had asked advice from Chief Construction Advisor Peter Hansford and from Liz Male, chair of Trustmark (also a former CAPSIG chair) – and the feedback I got from both was similar:

  • General perceptions of construction are often heavily influenced by negative experiences as consumers at the SME level
  • We have some landmark projects (the Shard, the 2012 London Olympic games infrastructure, Crossrail, etc) that are world-leading, but which are often overlooked in favour of “cowboy builder” stories and other negativity.

Communicate, campaign, collaborate!

I reflected these themes back to Constructing Excellence’s audience, highlighting some of the initiatives already under way (some of them cited in the government/industry Construction 2025 strategy), but underlining – as any good PR professional would – that the industry’s reputation is the result of what it does, what it says and what others say about it. It can’t control the latter – it can only control what it does and what it says.

And, in keeping with CE’s collaborative working ethos, I said the industry needed to stop thinking of itself as a monolithic entity and start to identify changes it could make across its many disciplines, and then get them communicating, running long-term, integrated, pan-sector campaigns, and working collaboratively with partners, trade bodies and (most importantly, perhaps) its customers. Using social media is also increasingly vital (why doesn’t the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme include its Twitter handle, @CCScheme, on its site notices?).

ProjectEasy App

After lunch, Ben Pritchard and Antonio Pisano presented a G4C perspective on the “Image of Construction” incorporating many of the points raised by previous speakers, but also – like me – highlighted the role that social media and new technology could make. They showed a short video outlining an app concept….

GenieBelt - construction, here we comeI watched this with particular interest as I have seen and written about more than a few mobile construction applications over the past year or so. Since the conference, I have suggested to the G4C guys that, rather than seeking to build an entire app from the ground up, they should talk to existing developers who have already created apps that do almost everything they envisage – mentioning FieldLens and GenieBelt, in particular.

Incidentally, since GenieBelt launched on 5 November, it has gained users in 200 locations across 50 different countries.

[Disclosure: I have provided PR consultancy services to GenieBelt.]

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  1. Paul,
    I was also in the audience at last week’s CE annual conference and was actively tweeting. What I find frustrating at these events is that, although well-meaning, they reinforce what I think is wrong with construction in the UK: namely, the status quo when viewed through the economic cycle suits most participants most of the time. Secondly, although a core principle of Constructing Excellence is to make a change in the industry in pursuit of excellence, I am struck time and time again and the slow adoption of new ideas or unwillingness to learn new skills by leaders who still have 15-20 years of active life in the industry.

    What example does it give to the bright young things that we are so keen to attract and inspire?

    By way of example, a professionally produced report for the event was available which included details of all the speakers, including their email address, but their or their organisation’s Twitter handles were not included in the information. This hampered those at the event who wished to tweet about it. I know that most leaders in construction are either ignorant of or scornful of social media but of course that is one of the ways in which they are failing the younger generation.

    Another explanation of course is that these leaders are nervous about expressing their views and being heard by a wide audience. Again isn’t communication a fundamental part of leadership?

    1. Thanks, Tim

      It was notable that the active tweeters in the room all also talked to each other face-to-face too (I have found social media brilliant for networking at events!).

      I am attending Monday’s CIOB conference in London (24 November) – it has a hashtag of #CIOBInspired, so I will see if it lives up that billing and also how its attendees contribute to the conversation.

      Kind regards – Paul

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