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The right communications during transmission line construction

Fingrid is asking land owners and residents living near transmission lines to provide feedback as the basis for developing communications, also using new tools. E-mail, Facebook and SMS messages have been tested for land owner communications in the Vanaja–Tikinmaa construction project. An informative tower erection display attracted a large audience in Hämeenlinna.

This year Fingrid has tested new communications tools when communicating about the Vanaja–Tikinmaa transmission line worksite. This project involves the renewal of an old line running from Hämeenlinna to Valkeakoski. The transmission line and towers are rarely renewed, and in this case the oldest towers date back to the 1930s. The project will be completed by next autumn.

In August, Fingrid organised a tower erection display for Hämeenlinna residents, during which the persons responsible for the project shared information about the company and progress of the work. At the same time, they gained valuable information about how construction has progressed in the eyes of the residents. The goal of the display was to give the audience a chance to watch a transmission line tower being erected, share information and also increase recognition of Fingrid. For example, the role of the transmission system operator in relation to the distribution network company is unclear to many electricity consumers.

“About 100 people watched the tower being raised in the Katinen district of Hämeenlinna. The tower is in the middle of a residential area, so people were already very interested in it. We invited residents in the area to watch the erection and we served pea soup and coffee. We told them who we are and what we do. The worksite manager explained the entire process of erecting the tower. We received a lot of positive feedback both during and after the event concerning the display and the progress of the project. People were most interested in the project schedule and technical features of the tower,” explains Project Manager Tuomas Maasalo. Feedback received through different channels is always reviewed and the company reacts whenever possible. “Concrete feedback received in good time is most beneficial, regardless of whether it concerns technical matters, schedules or anything else. We go through the feedback in project meetings and take it into consideration at the worksite as best we can,” assures Maasalo.

Electronic communications methods to describe the project situation

When a transmission line is completed, Fingrid sends land owners a feedback survey about project flow. These surveys have revealed that people would like to receive information on the progress of construction by e-mail or SMS message. During the Vanaja–Tikinmaa project, land owners were given the choice of receiving such messages and following its progress in Facebook.

“Every Fingrid construction project has its own website. For example, the website contains contact information for the responsible persons from the contractor and Fingrid. People can also send e-mail to the project manager – which is me in this case. We go through feedback and develop our operations continuously,” states Maasalo.

The construction project has its own open Facebook group called “vanajatikinmaa”, where information about progress of the project is provided. Pia Ojala from Fingrid communications, who coordinates project communications, considers the interactive nature of Facebook to be its best feature.
“Facebook provides a way to see how the worksite is progressing and where people are working. We also hope that readers will comment on our messages in Facebook and ask about anything that they are curious about. It would be great if the project inspired discussion.

In Facebook, the goal is to forecast the situation and provide up-to-date information in words and images. E-mail, SMS messages and Facebook are all conveniently available to people and the information reaches them during the day. We try to make our communications very approachable and understandable, and we also want to hear about problems as soon as possible,” emphasises Ojala.

The Fingrid website has a map service where people can search for a specific construction project route on the map. Anyone who is interested can use the service to send feedback and mark the exact place on the map where they want to focus attention.

Old communications tools will be retained

Public events like the tower erection will certainly be held in the future as well.
“Talking with people makes it easier for us to build in their neighbourhoods. We want to give the project a face and answer questions. For example, not many people know that Fingrid is a completely Finnish company. At the same time, we make Fingrid familiar and we hear how we can improve our operations,” states Ojala.

Along with electronic messages, Fingrid will continue to send letters and hold information sessions.
“Prior to starting construction work, the expropriation committee holds an initial meeting where Fingrid representatives also talk about the project entity. One of Fingrid’s important communications tools is a letter to land owners, which is sent after the contractor has been selected and work has started at the worksite. The “Mailleni tulee voimajohto” (A transmission line is being built on my land) brochure explains when and in which matters a land owner should be active. We conduct a feedback survey after the completion of every project,” says Ojala. •