Overcoming NIMBY for Your Construction Project

How to effectively relay information regarding a construction project to the general public.

"Not in My Backyard", or NIMBY, is a term used to describe a person or a group of people who strongly oppose new development in their communities.  Whether it's a new housing complex, retail development, casino or power plant, NIMBYs - as they are commonly referred to - will actively organize to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.  These days, the "Backyard" in NIMBY has grown so vastly, that residents often oppose airplane flight paths, offshore wind and liquefied natural gas terminals.

More often it seems that NIMBY activists are simply in it to win it. They speak out, without taking the time to educate themselves with accurate information pertaining to the development at hand.  While NIMBY groups may protest loud and proud, their motives often stem from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community.  

So how does a company relay factual information regarding the project to the general public?  It's simple. They hire a grassroots public affairs firm to enlist community support and engage conversation relating to the project. 

One of the most common phrases we hear from a company facing strong project opposition is "they have everything under control" or "we have a public relations firm in place."  Fast forward two weeks later, and it is front page news that their project has been defeated.

The fact of the matter is, most PR firms are not experienced with the grassroots techniques needed to find local supporters to speak out on projects and win a campaign.  Rallying this local support is a key component to any contentious proposal. By finding these local allies and forming a supporter coalition, developers are able to build support for their project from day one.

Coalition building creates social change in a community that is being flanked with negativity. A common goal of building and bettering their community helps supporters bring a logical voice and a positive attitude to any new development project.  Instead of focusing on the picketers outside of a public hearing, developers need to concentrate on gaining this support with a variety of tactics commonly used to battle the NIMBY issue.

Supporter Database
Obtaining supportive reinforcement means knowing who to target.  Preliminary research of the town is pertinent in the first stages of a development project. This does not only include a thorough analysis of the demographics of the area, but also the opinions and political agendas of leading local officials and legislators.  Research of third party organizations, including non-profit agencies and business groups, will help identify a potential support network. This often leads to a helping hand if they may have something to gain from the development.

Sending the Message
Once the developer has filed an application with the town, a press release announcing the project and introducing the public to basic facts about the development can often eliminate rumors and misinterpretations from pro-NIMBY groups.  Soon after the release hits, an introductory mail piece is distributed to all households to keep the idea of your new development fresh in mind; materials like direct mailers, e-mail reminders, and newspaper ads remind potential supporters of the advantages that a new development will bring.

Banding Together
Local residents who want to see economic development or positive change in their community will help out in any way they can.  Of course, some may be more vocal than others.  A good tactic may be to pinpoint those "super supporters" who are willing to write letters to local newspapers and decision makers, both in support of the project and as a rebuttal to any NIMBY arguments. 

Perhaps these residents in favor are willing to participate, and even help with the planning of meetings that reinforce the coalition and allow other supporters to come out for the cause.  Benefits of the "super supporter" are invaluable. This includes their willingness to post lawn signs addressing the issue at hand, gather petition signatures, or simply make phone calls that render further support.

None of this can be done without the help of grassroots professionals.  Companies often mistake the services of a general PR firm as being enough to win over a community, but in today's NIMBY reality, that is simply not the case. 

Public Strategy Group is a public affairs firm experienced and successful in the grassroots techniques that will help see tough zoning issues through to successful completion.