Branding and governmentality for infrastructure megaprojects: The role of social media
Article

Article Highlight:

This paper explores the strategies that megaproject teams use to manage stakeholders through social media (Twitter and Facebook), using the branding of a metro rail project in India as the subject of the study.

Keywords

  • Megaprojects
  • Governmentality
  • Branding
  • Project community
  • Social media

Download now

What does the paper cover?

The study uses theories of power to study the strategies for dealing with stakeholders through an organisation’s brand. The structure follows the 5C’s framework of a research article proposed by Lange and Pfarrer (2017):

1. the Common ground is summarised as the need for effective stakeholder management

2. the Complication is the difficulty in managing external stakeholders who cannot be governed by contract

3. the Concern is the underperformance of the megaproject resulting from scope creep and escalation of commitment

4. the Course of action is the research methodology employed in studying a complex topic such as governmentality through observing social media.

5. the Contributions are in the summary and key findings in the form of six propositions along with limitations of the approach and suggestions for future research.


Methodology

Infrastructure megaprojects tend to experience more conflict than other industries due to the disparate interests of the wide range of internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders are more difficult to govern than internal ones because they are often not bound by contracts, so organisations adopt many overt and more covert strategies to manage the issues that arise.

In this paper, a brief literature review of governmentality and branding – two strategic approaches to managing stakeholders – allowed the authors to arrive at two research questions:

1. How is governmentality through branding used to manage the megaproject community and the project team?

2. What are the effects of governmentality through branding on the project community and project team?

These questions are addressed using a case study of a metro rail megaproject in India, in which the authors analysed social media outputs surrounding the project and the branding they created. This megaproject was chosen because it extensively used social media and the researchers were able to access key personnel and data.

A content analysis of 640 project and non-project-based Tweets was undertaken. This data was augmented with the community’s response (454 comments) on Facebook as well as through 18 semi-structured interviews that captured the project teams’ responses. These interviews lasted from 1–3 hours and were conducted over 3 months.

The findings are discussed in relation to existing literature on branding and governmentality.


Research findings

Analysis of the relationship between social media and branding in this megaproject leads to six propositions about the effect of governmentality on the community and project teams:

1. Community support for construction activities results from the reach of the media promoting the organisation, giving progress updates and appealing to the community.

2. Job attraction within the project team results from the reach of the media promoting the organisation, giving progress updates and appealing to the community.

3. Positive brand image in the community results from the reach of the media promoting the organisation, giving progress updates, appealing to the community and targeting sections of the population.

4. Enhanced job perception in the project team results from the reach of the media promoting the organisation, giving progress updates, appealing to the community and targeting sections of the population.

5. Transformation of the project community into brand advocates results from the social reach of the media promoting the organisation, appealing to the community and targeting sections of the population.

6. Transformation of the project team into brand advocates results from the social reach of media promoting the organisation, appealing to the community and targeting sections of the population.


Conclusions

The construction industry makes up more than 10% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) but the use and relevance of social media data is under-explored.

This study outlines the positive effect of social media on external stakeholders – the community – and the internal project team in this case study of a megaproject. The governmental strategies used via social media (such as giving project updates, promoting the organisation and appealing to the community) resulted in positive relations with the community and project teams, enhancing the organisation’s brand image. This in turn led to increased alignment of the interests of external stakeholders with those of the project, thereby leading to reduced protest.

The researchers identify limitations and possibilities for future research:

  • The researchers identify limitations and possibilities for future research:

  • the age limitations of social media users may restrict the effects of governmentality

  • similar studies may need to be undertaken in other geographical and cultural contexts to generalize these results

  • analysis of social media communications and how community engagement evolves over time

  • how governmentality shapes the project team into brand advocates

  • resistance to governmentality through social media

  • the relative importance of governmentality instruments and their effects through a more mixed-method approach may help identify additional findings.

Within the limitations of the research, this paper summarises six propositions that contribute to the management of stakeholders in megaprojects through governmentality. It also contributes to discussion of community engagement practices in megaprojects that use branding to foster governmentality.


Significance of the research

For project managers: The role of governmentality in positively influencing external stakeholders – especially the use of social media in implementing governmental strategies – is an important aspect to include in megaproject planning. Aligning external stakeholders with the project’s goals is likely to enable the project to meet its stated objective better.

For researchers: Areas for future research are identified, as listed in the conclusions above.


Comments from the authors:

Currently, while there is much talk about the role of social media in politics as well as issues about data privacy, the impact of social media on the management of stakeholders in projects is seldom discussed. This research sought to understand how social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can shape the preferences of the project community and how it can be used as a tool for effective management of external stakeholders by project managers of megaprojects. We are in the process of extending this work by studying the resistance to the use of these strategies from the communities’ perspective.

Other research summaries

Occupational stress and job demand, control and support factors among construction project consultants

Article highlight:

This article investigates the relationship between job demands, job control, workplace support factors and occupational stress among South African construction project consultants.

Click here

The project benefits of Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Article highlight:

This article provides an outlook on the potential use and advantages of BIM in the construction sector for project managers. It has been taken from the International Journal of Project Management.

Click here

Does Agile work? - A quantitative analysis of agile project success

Article highlight:

This article looks at the benefits, or not, of applying an agile (i.e. flexible) method of project management, as opposed to more traditional methods.

Click here

Differences in decision-making criteria towards the return on marketing investment: A project business perspective

Article highlight:

This article encourages the use of return on marketing-specific investment (ROMI), paired with client lifetime value (CLV) and programme data sets, as a tool to facilitate dialogue between finance and marketing departments.

Click here

Institutional development, divergence and change in the discipline of project management

Article highlight:

This article looks at the challenges of developing project management as an academic discipline.

Click here

Explicating the dynamics of project capabilities

Article highlight:

This article looks at the spread of knowledge about benefits management and its adoption by organisations; the global development of benefits management; and translation processes at the organisation level.

The article’s authors undertook literature reviews and drew on their own extensive practical experience.

They used translation theory to analyse the development of benefits management and to draw conclusions about its current use.

Click here

Benefits management: Lost or found in translation

Article highlight:

This article looks at the spread of knowledge about benefits management and its adoption by organisations; the global development of benefits management; and translation processes at the organisation level.

The article’s authors undertook literature reviews and drew on their own extensive practical experience.

They used translation theory to analyse the development of benefits management and to draw conclusions about its current use.

Click here

Understanding the professional project manager

Article Highlight:

This paper explores and examines the duality of ‘local’ knowledge (company; sector) and ‘cosmopolitan’ knowledge (specialist skills, often transferable) that project managers have and rely on.

Find out more

Corruption in public projects and mega projects

Article Highlight:

This article explores the impact of corruption in large, unique projects such as public projects and megaprojects, as well as the conditions and features that favour such corruption.

Find out more

Project portfolio management in practice and in context

Article Highlight:

This research advocates new approaches and perspectives on project portfolio management to deepen understanding of its application in the day-to-day business environment.

Click here

Managing change in the delivery of complex projects: Configuration management, asset information and ‘big data’

Article Highlight:

This article provides insight into how change is managed in three organisations delivering complex projects – Airbus, CERN and Crossrail – and how those methods are evolving in the era of ‘big data’.

It has been taken from the International Journal of Project Management.

Click here

Three domains of project organising

Article Highlight:

This article challenges the belief that project organising is temporary. It argues that most project organising is done by (relatively) permanent forms of organisation. It also argues that the belief of its temporary nature has limited the development of research in this field.

Click here

The unsettling of ‘settled science’: The past and future of the management of projects

Article Highlight:

Professor Peter Morris’ management of projects (MoP) perspective unsettles the norm of project management theory and practice because he criticises standard guidance as being too execution-focused.

Click here

Project studies: What it is, where it is going?

Article Highlight:

This paper proposes a new framework for project research, the project studies framework, containing three levels of analysis and three types of research.

Click here

Projectification in western economies: a comparative study of Germany, Norway and Iceland

Article Highlight:

This paper tests and confirms a common assumption that projectification is increasing in companies, economic sectors and whole economies in the western world. The research presented contributes to making the term ‘projectification’ a fact based on sound empirical evidence.

Click here

What practitioners consider to be the skills and behaviours of an effective people project manager

Article highlight:

Project managers need to show open and honest concern for and genuine interests in the people they work with, understanding their feelings and emotions. This understanding will help them to predict future behaviours of their team members so they can plan to avoid, for example, people conflicts.

Showing respect for others and what they stand for is a behaviour that carries a lot of weight in effective people management – in any culture. People value being respected for what they are and stand for. It makes them feel good about themselves but also about the person showing the respect.

Click here

Join APM

Sign up to the APM Newsletter.