When obtaining social license matters, so does training

Posted on Feb 20, 2017

Does training your scientific team to speak plain language really matter?

It did for a mining project in central British Columbia, Canada.

In December 2015, we were hired to perform a statistically-valid perception survey among indigenous and non-indigenous community members who would be most affected by the project.

The community relations team had been working in the area for nearly three years, so positive results were not surprising – the survey indicated 72 percent of community members approved of the project.

However, 56 percent of people said they still wanted more information about the project. And, that’s where PR Associates stepped in. We proposed and undertook a communication strategy that included stakeholder engagement; creating a suite of information products such as fact sheets and brochures; government relations strategies; digital, social and traditional media; and executive training. We designed each communication considering how to make the technical information simple, clear and understandable.

One of the most substantial pieces of work we undertook was the training. Not only did we provide communication training for the community relations team, we included every single person who came into contact with community members. Whether it was the engineer responsible for the tailings dam, the qualified professional looking after geology, the water quality specialist or the wildlife specialist who was an expert on caribou, we trained them to speak their science in a way that would be easily understood and would resonate with the community.

Six months later, in June 2016, we re-surveyed the residents and found approval had sharply increased to 81 percent. For those that care about this sort of thing – we tested the increase to ensure it was statistically valid, and it was. We also saw a statistically valid decrease in the number of people who had concerns about the project.

When asked, 55 percent of people noted the recent information they had received from the project had directly impacted their positive view of the project.

We have seen perception audit results improve through good communication before, but we’ve never seen a 9 percent increase in positive sentiment in just six months. I am convinced it was because of the training that the entire project team and consultants received.

I know resource projects are expensive, slow and all-encompassing.  But I’ve been working with science-y folks for a long time, and I know how to make it easier.  I’d love to see what we can do for you.  Call me at 604.240.5223 to start the conversation.


Megan Helmer

Megan Helmer is PR Associates’ Vice President, a Public Relations Firm based in Vancouver & Toronto. She has nearly 20 years of communication experience and she is especially fond of the resource industry.

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At PR Associates, there is no learning curve because health and science communication is all we do. As experts and seamless extensions of your team, we use science storytelling to clarify complexity, capture imaginations, shift mindsets, and stimulate investment interest.

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