By James Snodgrass
An interesting project I recently worked on with my colleague Mark Chataway highlighted how communications goes beyond public relations; it can play an integral part shaping business strategy. It also showcased our ability to leverage global networks to pull off last minute miracles!
A UK government agency was looking to host a multi-million dollar technology project internationally. The project had the potential to not only immensely benefit the scientific data and infrastructure of its hosting country, but also help boost the local economy (by providing jobs for the engineering of different project-related sites, enhancing academic institutions and facilities, etc). The decision came down to two front-runners for hosting the project – one, a developed nation with a sophisticated academic and technology infrastructure already in place; and the other an African emerging economy, which while having great potential for growth, was nowhere near as established as its fellow bidder. We were hired by the African country to help with its bid.
First, we worked with the relevant stakeholders from the African side to hone their bidding strategy. We realised it was important to try and shift the UK policymaker’s decision-making focus from purely technical/science grounds to a more holistic view of the project’s impact and associated benefits – highlighting long-lasting developmental benefits as well as the straightforward technology ones. Doing so would give the African country an edge over its more developed and technologically advanced counterpart.
With a short one-month’s time-line, we put together a high-profile event in London to reach the key stakeholders with this message. Due largely to our extensive network and contacts, in attendance were British MPs and policymakers from the relevant government agencies, senior civil servants, members of the project’s funding committee, senior academics, African officials, and high-level media. An eminent African minister gave the keynote speech and presentation, highlighting the various benefits of hosting the project in his country, including the fact that its development impact would also ripple across to eight neighbouring countries. The presentation was followed by a reception and one-to-one meetings between influential UK and African stakeholders.
The event generated substantial interest and media coverage from British and African media outlets such as the BBC, the African Review, New Scientist, and The Guardian. Following success of the event, a number of high-level UK MPs have arranged for site visits to the African country’s project site.
The decision for which country will host the project will be out in February 2012. Now, with the refined bidding strategy, we feel the African country has a real shot at winning the bid!