It really irks locals when they hear about what's happening with your plans from someone other than you. Here are some great ways to make sure they are always the first to know.
Create a dedicated project website
Your stakeholders will naturally want to know about your business, which is what your main company website is for.
But they're going to be much more interested in the project itself, and so a dedicated, standalone website is always very useful.
You can use it to: introduce your team; share facts; make important documents available (like copies of planning applications); post regular project updates; and accept feedback from stakeholders.
If possible, include an instant chat function so that people can start a conversation with you whenever they're 'in the moment'. And be sure to have a well developed FAQ section that you can direct people to in response to common queries.
Use a closed group on Facebook
There are over 31 million UK users of Facebook and, according to research, over 50% of them log in more than once a day. That makes it a powerful communications tool for you and your local stakeholder population.
To make the most of it, set up a closed group and then invite local residents living near your proposed development to join it.
The advantages of a closed group like this are that you can control the membership and make sure it's limited to those stakeholders that have a legitimate reason to be the first know about what's happening with your plans (and not people from further afield that can reasonably be expected to wait).
If you have a dedicated website for your project, you could use your closed Facebook group to signpost people to your online content.
Set up a WhatsApp or Messenger group
More and more people are using smartphone apps to stay in touch, with WhatsApp and Messenger being two of the most popular.
You can use both to set up a 'broadcast' group that allows you to send the equivalent of an SMS text message to everyone on your distribution list.
This is particularly useful for conveying need-to-know information quickly - so, for example, if you're expecting a delivery of equipment or materials and it might cause some temporary traffic hold-ups, you could send people a message burst to let them know, enabling them to factor it into their travel plans for the day.
Don't forget traditional postal services
Although over 92% of the UK population now uses the internet, there's still a chance that some of your local stakeholders will be among the 8% or so that don't. They may also not own a smartphone (or any kind of mobile phone at all) and so you can't rely on them to reach everyone.
So, you still need to send updates out by conventional postal service.
Obviously, this method of communication lacks the same immediacy which means you'll need to take account of the time it takes for post you send to arrive with the recipient. It makes sense to try and time the arrival of your hard copy correspondence with its electronic equivalent.
Remember, communication with stakeholders is best when it's a two-way process, so you need to make sure people always have a means of getting in touch to air their views or seek clarification about something you've told them. With that in mind, make sure you provide a freephone number and freepost address as well as making it easy for people to engage with you on your website.
Where there is opposition to your plans, this sort of communication structure won't necessarily reduce it. But you should find that people are more trusting and appreciative of your efforts - even if they still don't like what you're proposing.