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COMMUNICATING IN A FAST-CHANGING WORLD.

Byline: RICK MARKLEY

As Oldcastle's vice president of public relations and a former chair of NSSGA's communications committee, Joyce Watson is well-suited to expound on the state of communication in the aggregate industry.

How well does the aggregate industry communicate with its different publics?

It is getting better. Transparency in communication is something that needs to happen these days; it cannot be optional. And it really must be built into the fabric of a company's communication. This covers everything from open meetings, to financial disclosures statements, to environmental issues. We need to get all of the information out in a very forthcoming and timely fashion.

What will it take for the highway funding message to resonate with the public?

I've been in the industry for 10 years, and am amazed that it is constantly being pushed out there and it just doesn't resonate. When the roads start to deteriorate and people can't get to where they want to go, maybe at that point they may become amenable to funding infrastructure. It really hasn't hit them where it hurts, if you will. They don't see the value in it. They don't think about it, and they take it very much for granted.

Is it the public, the message, or the messenger?

I always thought that the industry needed one of those "got milk" ad campaigns. There just isn't a great awareness out there about what we do and how these roads get funded. An educational marketing campaign needs to be a piece of this. We haven't done this. I know that such an effort would be very expensive, and I don't know that it would be realistic.

What do you think of the grass-roots tactic?

That's important too. My circle of family and friends know what I do and the importance of infrastructure. You can go at it from a number of different angles.

How do you handle NIMBYs who oppose everything?

It starts with the open and transparent communication. You really need to get the facts out there and engage them in a discussion. It is important that the questions are answered by the people that are best informed, whether it is the engineer or the plant manager. Established relationships and credibility in the community helps a lot. Concessions and accommodations need to be offered these days. You can't just stand your ground and not make any accommodations, whether it is the times of blasting hours or whatever the particular situation is. You have to listen.

Has the angrier tone of discourse in America changed how you communicate?

People can have a very emotional reaction to a lot of subjects, and they are not always rational. And, of course, as the person opposite those folks who are becoming emotional, you need to maintain composure and be very rational and not internalize all that is coming toward you. You have to try to draw them back to what the facts are and use that as the point from which you are having your discussion.

What effects have the changes in communication modes had on your job?

The Internet has had a great impact on communication. It has been the most significant change in my career, in terms of communication. The Internet allows basically anyone to become a publisher. It is easy for the public to organize protests online. Crisis can be created, products and services can be criticized, and employees can complain about the company they work for in open forums. There's certainly a collision of social media and mainstream media. PR professionals are struggling to recognize what impact the Internet and its associated communication tools will have on how communication occurs. The rise of social media and the fall of print media have altered how aggregate companies communicate with their publics. Social media seems to be the future of communication. It really introduces sociology into the marketing and public relations strategy. It is about conversations and dynamic relationships with multiple audiences. One of the positive sides is that it has the ability to humanize a company's products and services.

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Title Annotation:Joyce Watson of Oldcastle Inc. speaks about services and communications
Author:Markley, Rick
Publication:Rock Products
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:687
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