Interview with Andrew Commons, Stagecoach Group

Interview with Andrew Commons, Stagecoach Group

We got together with Andrew Commons from Stagecoach Group to talk shop, learn about his role in the £800 million Waterloo upgrade project and how his background in journalism prepared him for life in stakeholder management.

Q: Tell us about the importance stakeholder management played in the £200 million Derby signalling project and the £800 million Waterloo upgrade?
Successful stakeholder management is vitally important for any project, regardless of the scope or size of the overall budget. It should be part of an effective overall communications plan which clearly understands the audiences it is speaking to and their requirements.

Beyond that, stakeholders can be very effective advocates for a scheme and help to raise awareness or highlight key messages. This is particularly helpful if the stakeholder has strong connections to a particular community or group which may otherwise be difficult to engage with.

Q: What stakeholder management tools were used to help manage each project?
We used an online stakeholder management system to coordinate and track interactions throughout the campaign.

Q: Were those tools effective?
Yes. We carried out a series of surveys during Derby Resignalling and by the end of the campaign, had a 100% satisfaction rate among our local and regional stakeholders.

Q: Briefly explain your approach to proactive and reactive communications for East Midlands Trains.
Similar to most public facing organisations, we aim to be more proactive than reactive, particularly in terms of dealing with the media.

Beyond that, we aim to highlight our successes whenever possible, particularly our track record of being the UK’s most punctual long distance train operator for the last nine years.

We have a lot of experience working with train operators. What are your biggest challenges running stakeholder and communications projects in the travel industry?

The rail industry is never far from the national news agenda, often for the wrong reasons. So, it can be difficult to cut through that noise to highlight improvements or changes which passengers need to be aware of.

The Waterloo and Derby campaigns both successfully raised awareness and generated support but it’s an ongoing challenge for myself and others in the industry – particularly with so much investment being delivered.

Q: You were a journalist before getting into communications management. What has journalism added to your role?
In my opinion, journalism was an excellent introduction into the wider world of communications for two reasons.

Firstly, it (hopefully!) teaches you how to effectively tell a story in a clear and concise manner to different audiences who are probably not giving you their full attention at the time.

Secondly, I was a field reporter and broadcast journalist so I learned very quickly (again, hopefully!) how to prioritise workloads and deliver things to fixed deadlines – it can be a challenge but is a good skill to learn early on in your career.

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