Sharing experiences and skills for lockdown, and beyond – PRCA Built Environment Group

How have we all adapted to the job of communications during lockdown? What skills and behaviours will stand us in good stead for the future world of work – whatever that might be? Three panellists took on these questions for the latest PRCA Built Environment Group webinar “Next-Gen of Built Environment Communicators” held on Thursday 18 March.

Helen Rowell, Head of HR & Resourcing at HSBC brought a fascinating and personal perspective from her role at a global bank that has had to onboard 8000 people virtually since Covid lockdowns began. In her role at HSBC Helen is now keenly focused on supporting the mental health of the bank’s staff, and outlined tips to maintain wellbeing for those working remotely.

When it comes to returning to the workplace as restrictions ease Helen said  this  a key area of focus for HSBC. She urged anyone in the audience considering how their teams return to more office-based working to “plan based on what you are doing now, not on what you used to do (pre-Covid)”.

A survey conducted during the webinar asked the audience “How would you prefer to work once the lockdown is lifted?”. It provided a resounding result with 100% stating they would prefer a hybrid of some home working and some time in the office. When the identical poll was put to a PRCA BE Group webinar in July 2020, 70% said they would prefer hybrid working, and 30% working from home full time. In both surveys there was no support for returning to full time office working.

Simon Halewood, Northern Communications Manager at Wilmott Dixon, reflected on the skills that have been important to allow him and his team to tell Wilmott Dixon’s story successfully across lockdown. He said that listening carefully to understand the particular concerns and interests of your audiences, and then tailoring your message accordingly, is more important than ever. Combining this with a willingness to be creative with both ideas and with technology (e.g. 3D digital environments previewing  completed buildings) has seen communications remain effective.

Former BBC journalist and now media trainer, James Pearce, wrapped up an excellent panel discussion by providing insights from his time in front of and behind the camera. He advised the PRCA audience that they or their clients should worry less about “sounding clever” in a media interview, and instead focus on how they make people feel. “Humans have three ways to receive a message, what they see, what they hear, and how it makes them feel. If you want to be remembered concentrate on painting pictures with the words you use that appeal to the emotions.”

It was a hard-hitting note to end on and an excellent way to draw the themes of the discussion together for our next generation of built environment communicators.

Our next PRCA BE Group event will be in July, and if you want to be involved please contact Group Chair Julius Duncan.