Ward to the Wise

Real Estate Public Relations: The good, The Bad And The Ugly


As communities throughout the U.S. become more urbanized, new real estate projects are at increased risk of opposition from myriad stakeholder groups.  Whether a high-end office building in an affluent neighborhood, an upscale apartment complex in a historic district, or an affordable housing apartment complex in a suburban community, each new project can be objectionable to someone. And, many developments present fair game for “anti-new development” activists. And, unlike some activist groups, these opponents frequently have strong and deep ties to community leaders and decision-makers and wield significant influence.

Daily, we witness how easily public sentiment regarding a real estate project can go bad, get ugly and turn sideways.  Opponents can be extremely savvy in reaching out to television outlets and elected officials to advance their cause.  They can take their fight to the streets and picket a project site (with a television camera filming their gathering), appear before city council meetings in large numbers to make their opposition known and position real estate developers and the new project as destroyers of the very fabric and personality of a community.

Early assessment of potential project opposition and proactive development of public relations strategies to deal effectively with opposition can significantly enhance the success of real estate projects, reinforce positive corporate reputations and favorably position projects in the marketplace.

It’s all in the planning

Strategic real estate public relations begins with reviewing all aspects of the project including: the purpose of the project, size, major benefits (jobs created, taxes paid, needs met, etc.), impact on the surrounding community (both positive and negative), etc.  Once you have reviewed the major project aspects, identify who will be affected by your project and what issues they are focused on. Different stakeholders will have different concerns.  For example, residential neighbors may be concerned about noise during construction or increased street traffic on narrow neighborhood streets. City officials may be concerned about their ability to provide city services to an office building. Historians may fear the project will detract from the historic ambiance of a district.  Homeowners may be concerned that the project will negatively affect property values.  All of these concerns are valid and should be addressed.

Once you have identified the various stakeholder groups and their issues, develop communication strategies to respectfully and responsibly address those concerns.  These strategies should include a variety of tactics including, but not limited to: an aggressive, ongoing media relations plan focusing on the project benefits and the developer’s outreach to create understanding; one-on-one meetings with opponents to discuss their issues; presentations before concerned community groups; meetings with key elected officials to share project details, its benefits and how you plan to mitigate public opposition; open houses or town hall meetings to publicly discuss the project and community concerns, etc.

By planning in advance and strategically implementing robust public relations tactics new real estate projects can effectively weather public opposition.

Planning a new real estate project? Give us a call. Ward’s real estate expertise can position your company and project for success.

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