Communicating NSW: Infrastructure boom underlines need to build the communication and engagement profession

During our Communicating NSW symposium held in December 2016, one of the panellists remarked that “it’s never been a more exciting time to be a communication and engagement professional”.

It’s not hard to see why the comment was made. With a significant infrastructure boom now underway in NSW, along with record levels of construction activity, there’s a strong pipeline of projects which require engagement.

What’s more, with the prevalence of social media and online engagement, there are now a range of exciting new tools available to deliver this work alongside the more traditional methods, including immersion and virtual reality technology.

However, at the same time, it also may be one of the most challenging times to be a communication and engagement professional.

Expectations on the profession have arguably never been higher. The sheer size and scale of infrastructure and construction projects and often their impacts on individuals, communities and cities means that creating and executing a successful communication and engagement strategy is no easy task, especially in NSW where there are multiple transformative projects occurring at one time. With such extensive activity, there is a significant task to engage, inform and partner with local communities to facilitate the timely and successful completion of projects to community satisfaction. At the same time, the community has never been so active and engaged in local projects with the fast flow of information, the 24-hour news-cycle and highly localised social media networks.

Temple Executive Search formed the view that more could be done to identify a way forward for the communication and engagement profession.

We formed this view because of the many conversations we were having with new and prospective clients. As a search, training and consulting firm specialising in communications and corporate affairs, we meet many employers – often agency or company heads.

The feedback we were getting was that more could be done to build the profession. Skills growth and the need for a deeper talent pool were often raised, as was the need for better mechanisms to establish and share best practice.

It’s for this reason that Temple decided to take a leadership role in the communication and engagement profession, which goes well beyond being a service provider to the profession.

Holding the Communicating NSW symposium was one way we advanced this role.

Another way we’ve decided to help the profession is by partnering with the Next Generation Engagement Project, by the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Government. This project was launched at the Communicating NSW symposium.

Led by Dr Sara Bice and Kirsty O’Connell, this Next Generation Engagement Project is currently assembling key industry and professional organisations to identify the critical knowledge gaps in engagement, social license and social risk management.

During 2017, the project will test its gap analysis with the infrastructure sector in the largest consultation on the practice of engagement in Australia to date.

This work will identify industry’s top research priorities and will underpin a future program of applied industry research to support good decision making in engagement and infrastructure delivery.

We are keen for the conversation on best practice engagement to continue and we are already planning the 2nd annual Communicating NSW Symposium for 2017. Follow us on LinkedIn for more updates on this and other exciting projects to develop our industry.