P2 tip #5: Anticipate issues

15 06 2011

As P2 professionals, we bring a different perspective and skill set to a project team. While others are in the mire of technical methodology and data, we stand slightly outside the technical work and are well-positioned to offer insight that may not come from anyone else on the team. So speak up! Although our primary responsibility is to communicate effectively with the public to support the process, we also have a responsibility to anticipate issues that others may not see.

Our unique perspective can be traced to differences in right brain/left brain functions of planners, engineers and communicators. It may also come from our greater level of attention to how something may appear to the general public and whether information is clear, logical and understandable. I consider myself the first focus group for information … if I can’t make sense of it, how can I expect to explain it to stakeholders?

Moreover, as communicators we should be looking ahead at potential issues to help the team address them early. Being proactive in anticipating issues allows time to gather information or work with stakeholders who can be opinion leaders. Early groundwork can pay dividends later when controversy arises. If nothing else, the project team has already thought through a range of responses and it should help avoid the team going into panic mode.

Anticipating issues is an ongoing process during the life of a project. An initial analysis should be part of a public involvement plan, but it may also fall under a project risk analysis, situation analysis or stakeholder analysis. There are always changing conditions to address. Look ahead and think through reactions and consequences each step of the way.

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