Yes, we increasingly need professional PR in the sphere of projects! This is at least the answer of Manfred Noé, author of one of the few (German language) books on Marketing / PR in projects labelled „Projekt-PR“ . Especially for those projects dealing with external stakeholders and the public at large. Public Relations (PR) might help to achieve a positive image of the project, the project management function and / or the organisation(s) performing the project. The PR should start in a very early stage, i.e. the proposal stage to advocate for it, and continue throughout the end of the project, highlighting the outcomes and benefits realized.
Besides creating a positive image, PR is helpful to make the public aware of the project, provide relevant information in order to build trust and make the public accept the project. Publicity may help organisations or associations to promote project management through good examples, to recognise an organisation´s or individual´s competence in managing projects and / or to create a network of supporters for a project (e.g. supporting a social project such as IPMA Coaching4Development.
However, PR is also very crucial for a project that is going wrong. It can explain to the public all reasons for delays or cost overruns as well as the potential way forward. Nothing is worse than speculations, interpretations or rumors without any public clarification. Thus, PR should be pro-active and deliver facts, figures and prospects in order to regain the trust of the public into project management.
As we increasingly deal with projects exposed to the public, stakeholder management is a good start, but should be expanded to a professional PR function. It should be part of the WBS and performed by one of the team members or a part time resource, e.g. a professional contracted for this specific task. A PR Specialist should be well connected to press, radio, TV, social media forums, governmental agencies and other channels relevant tot he project. Like in stakeholder management the PR Specialist should analyze the target audience, define the goals for influencing and a communication plan. PR will require the project management to specify the vision for the project, a project identity (e.g. logo, slogan or persona) and the resources allocated to the PR function. Some examples of terribly failed projects demonstate why the money spent for PR is well spent money …