Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency: Communication during construction facilitates success and helps people with their everyday lives

Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency: Communication during construction facilitates success and helps people with their everyday lives

Construction often takes place amid bustling life, and when this happens, construction work and the resulting changes to traffic impact road safety and the everyday lives of residents. For the project to succeed, it is important to communicate beforehand how route changes affect movement in the area. This is the work of Welado’s project communication professionals, and they are doing it in places such as Kotka, where streets in the city centre are being altered and the interchange of Paimenportti on main road 15 is being renewed. 

The Paimenportti project, commissioned by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA), began in the spring of 2021. The project is made challenging by the central location. There are many variables in the small construction area, including a main road, train track with platforms, bus routes with their changes, various specialty structures, pipeworks and cables. Plenty of blasting work has been needed in the project area, in the immediate vicinity of buildings such as the Kymenlaakso Central Hospital. Demolition of the old Paimenportti bridge stopped train traffic in Kotka for one weekend.

Welado operates in the Paimenportti project as a developer consultant and is responsible for the project's communications. The customer has been quite pleased with the team's set of skills.

“I have observed significant synergy benefits in having communicators work in close cooperation with developer consultants. In the Paimenportti project I haven't had to serve as an intermediary between the communications team and the construction site as they already communicate directly with each other. Welado has been able to fulfil its customer promise of always delivering an easy project as information flows quicker inside the company than having to go through me. It makes my job easier when Welado people help each other and messages flow smoothly,” describes FTIA’s project manager Jetro Matilainen.

The following Welado artisans are involved in the Paimenportti project: Mari Kurkinen and Sini Syrjä-Virtanen in communications, Jari Sairanen as a developer consultant, project manager and safety coordinator, Jukka Salminen as a project engineer and Yrjö Kareinen as a supervisor.

The job of communications is to identify challenges and solve them in advance

At Welado, project communication contents are prepared within our own team with the support of specialists, which means that substance know-how is robust from construction terminology all the way to overall understanding of the project as a whole. First and foremost, communication requires anticipation: what is communicated, how, when and to whom. At its best, project communication is dialogue in which people in the sphere of influence of the construction site want to be involved.

One of the meaningful tasks of Paimenportti's project communication is to help the people of Kotka with their everyday lives. If the transportation route they usually take is being renovated, which safe and accessible route can they take now and tomorrow, and when can they return to normal. 

For this purpose, a separate Facebook page was set up for the people of Kotka about the Paimenportti project.  The page offers the opportunity for interactive, real-time communication. The page actively posts about changes, and residents have the opportunity to ask for clarifications and further information. Questions are also answered directly via Messenger. The most popular update on the page is a time lapse video of the demolition of the old Paimenportti bridge.

“Through the Facebook page we reach the people living and moving in the sphere of influence of the project. The page has 1 300 followers, which means the people of Kotka have succeeded in finding our communication channel. Most of our feedback is received via the page, and on the page we engage in active dialogue with citizens with a low threshold,” says Welado's communications specialist Sini Syrjä-Virtanen.

In addition to the FB page, Welado’s project communicators update and produce content for FTIA’s Paimenportti project page regarding the plans and goings-on of the project.  "We at Welado hold weekly internal meetings about the project where we go through the matters that require communicating with our own team. The goal is to utilise in-house cooperation to make the project as easy as possible for the customer in terms of communications as well,” says communications specialist Mari Kurkinen.   

The various stages of the project have also been communicated with press releases sent to media outlets and resident mailboxes.

Welado's communications are part of comprehensive project management – mere communications expertise is not enough

Jetro Matilainen has ten years of experience in the procurement of project communications. He highlights the communicators’ understanding of construction, permanence of staff throughout the project and a genuine interest in project communications as the most crucial elements of successful communication in construction projects.

“Mere communications expertise might not be enough, but mastering the terminology of construction helps a lot in communications work. Welado's project communicators emanate a genuine interest in how people in the area fare during construction and how the construction work affects their daily lives,” Matilainen describes.

According to Matilainen, communications in the Paimenportti project work exactly as they should. He has full confidence in the abilities of the communications teams.

“Trust is created by not having the communications team as a separate entity, but as an integral part of the developer consultant's service, or in active cooperation with the developer consultant. Mari and Sini's work reflects a genuine interest in project communications, and they are both well-versed in the ins and outs of construction contracting. They have mastered the whole concept of the work in a very independent and self-guiding manner. Besides their expertise, their passion for successful project communication brings added value to Welado’s service,” Matilainen says.

Humane interaction is of paramount importance when we are dealing with changes to people's daily lives

Welado’s goal is to operate under soft, humane values in the construction sector, which is often thought to be very traditional. The empathetic touch is also a way to differentiate our communications service from other operators. In practice, empathy means a real intent to identify those emotions that the project induces in the environment, and to anticipate communication needs accordingly. According to Matilainen, this manifests in everyday operations in the way the communicators answer questions posed on the project’s Facebook page with a humane touch, for example.

“Mari and Sini, the members of the communications team in the Paimenportti project, are not only easy-going and nice, but they are also empathetic, which is seen and felt in their social media communications, for example. I have personally seen plenty of the industry in my ten years, and I've grown accustomed to bickering on work sites and solving these kinds of problems, maybe up to the point of cynicism. So, to counter this, it is good that our communicators are very understanding of even the angrier people sending us messages, and that they know how to receive these messages and react to them in a humane manner. This leaves the person posing the question with a softer feeling, and they feel seen,” says Jetro Matilainen.

Read more from our project communication guide: Download our free project communication guide here (in Finnish)

For more information on our project communication services, contact Mari.

mari.kurkinen@welado.fi, +358 40 148 7222

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