BREAKING THE NIMBY LAW OF ATTRACTION

 

NIMBY law of attraction motivates citizens living within the community-at-large to mobilize against a corporation for the purposes of delaying, disrupting and defeating high-profile, multi-million dollar land use projects.

This phenomena is infamously known as NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard), where vocal opposition successfully attack multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations to protect the status quo from new sustainable development.

NIMBY uprisings are no stranger to the real estate and land development community.  Unfortunately, it happens more often than many realize, and the staggering evidence is hiding in plain sight:

Every year, thousands of projects are ensnared in the web of community conflict over controversial projects that are characterized in the media as David vs. Goliath.

Every year, thousands of part-time elected officials side with angry residents, to vote against legal and sustainable land use projects – especially during election years.

Every year, our economy loses billions of dollars in investment capital, economic growth and jobs to angry residents who defeat sustainable projects with no budget, no lawyers, no office space, and no PR consultants (this is changing, however, due to DC interest groups).

3 Signs of NIMBY Law of Attraction

One, if not all three of these signs, indicates a NIMBY Law of Attraction has latched onto your project:

Public hearings that turn into Jerry Springer episodes is the first sign.  Too often, applicants become deer in the headlights when they’re unexpectedly ambushed by local residents resulting in project delays and negative publicity that emboldens the opposition, while antagonizing the elected body.

Patrick Slevin

Sign number two is when the mayor or public official asks the applicant to host a town hall meeting to educate the public.  This request usually stems from mounting pressure elected officials are feeling from a few dozen calls and emails, or when city hall is overrun by angry neighbors. This is an indication that the elected body is lacking social confidence in corporate developers and their application.  When this occurs, the opposition has secured the political and strategic high grounds, resulting in 9 out of 10 town hall meetings turning into media spectacles.

The third sign that your project is experiencing a NIMBY Law of Attraction is when elected officials privately tell you that they support the project, but they’re unable to support it publicly.  At least not until the political environment is much more conducive to risking their political capital.  In most cases, the political environment only gets worse until the project is withdrawn or voted down.

Breaking the NIMBY Law of Attraction

Breaking the NIMBY Law of Attraction begins with understanding that corporate developers who ignore, overlook or underestimate the community-at-large, the same community that grants the license to operate, is essentially increasing the risk of NIMBY opposition.

Put another way, every community has a NIMBY sleeper cell potential of residents and activists who are ready to mobilize opposition to any project. When a corporate applicant fails to implement a stakeholder assessment and community engagement element to their strategy, they’re essentially forfeiting the high ground, emboldening lone individuals (or DC-centric special interests) to mobilize, frame and drive the impending crisis.

No one wants to see their sustainable project put in the crosshairs of a NIMBY campaign.  Granted, not every project is opposed, but in reality, the odds are stacked against corporations attempting to secure land use and zoning changes for high profile, high stakes projects.

The NIMBY Law of Attraction is an equal opportunity risk factor.  Meaning, industries and projects spanning infill, mixed use, energy, residential, retail, industrial and commercial suffer the same consequences when the community-at-large is ignored or worst yet, alienated.

Corporate leaders and their representatives at the local level, should understand that the risks of ignoring the community-at-large is equivalent to rolling the dice on millions of dollars of investments, shareholder value and future market share.

By the time a sustainable project sees the signs of NIMBY Law Attraction, then it has become a costly crisis that has put the applicant on the defensive.

THE GOOD NEWS

The good news is that 80 percent of those projects that were delayed, disrupted or defeated by angry opponents could have had a more successful outcome had corporate developers taken proactive community outreach steps to reduce the risks of attracting community opposition.

The bottom line is corporate developers and their representatives have more control over the fate of their sustainable projects.  It’s a matter of choosing low risk and low investment of stakeholder engagement, or rolling the dice, hoping the NIMBY Law of Attraction will somehow not target your project.

The latter has been the popular business model, which has always played into the hands of those who are at the ready to attack city hall with their smartphones and Facebook pages.

The irony is corporate developers ask communities to accept change, but they’re not willing to change their business models in order to locate and educate the very same community influencers who are asked to support their multi-million dollar projects.

Those moments of decisions are when the NIMBY Law of Attraction is determined.

Will you generate the next NIMBY Law of Attraction for your project?

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Patrick Slevin is one of few national speakers and consultants considered a “NIMBY Expert”.  Mr. Slevin is a former Florida mayor, who for three decades has spoken, consulted, and written about mitigating the risks associated with status quo opposition.  Mr. Slevin’s entertaining presentations empower corporate executives on “how to” win political and community support for controversial projects. 

Learn more about Patrick and SL7 Consulting at www.PatrickSlevin.com.  If you’re interested in Patrick as your speaker or consultant, please email him for more information and to set up a call:  P.SL7@patrickslevin.com

SL7 Interview’s Fred Leonhardt of GrayRobinson

RIP Fred Leonhardt. You will be missed.

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Fred Leonhardt Fred Leonhardt

Fred Leonhardt heads GrayRobinson’s government relations practice spanning the law firm’s 12 offices across the state of Florida. GrayRobinson consistently ranks among the top revenue earning government relations practices in the state. Fred has a long history of civic and community service. He is the former chair of the Florida Chamber, Floridians for Better Transportation and Leadership Florida. He has served or serves on the board of directors of Florida Council of 100, Enterprise Florida, Associated Industries of Florida, James Madison Institute, Orlando Area Chamber of Commerce and Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.

SLEVIN: HOW MANY LAWYERS AND LOBBYISTS DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE WORKING IN YOUR GOVERNMENT RELATIONS PRACTICE? WHAT IS IT ABOUT GRAYROBINSON THAT’S DIFFERENT FROM MORE TRADITIONAL LOBBYING PRACTICES IN FLORIDA?

LEONHARDT: GrayRobinson currently has about a dozen professionals fully employed in state level government relations. I believe we are unique because of the “full service”…

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Public Relations Trumps Lobbying: Study Reveals PR Paradigm

Government relations professionals refusing to acknowledge and leverage public relations as part of influencing public policy are falling behind the times.  A new study by The Center of Public Integrity found that some of the nation’s largest trade associations spent nearly twice as much on public relations than lobbying.

According to the study, of $3.4 billion in contracts reported by the 144 trade groups from 2008 through 2012, more than $1.2 billion, or 37 percent, went toward advertising, public relations and marketing services, more than any other category. The second-highest total, $682.2 million, or 20 percent of the total, was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs.

Public relations is more than just creating a persuasive storyline. If done correctly, PR educates the public, which creates credibility.  It humanizes the legal jargon that goes into statutes.

The study singles out American Petroleum Institute. It stated, “The oil and gas industry trade group spent more than $7 million lobbying federal officials in 2012. But that sum was dwarfed by the $85.5 million it paid to four public relations and advertising firms to, in effect, lobby the American public — including $51.9 million just to global PR giant Edelman.”

“From 2008 through 2012, annual tax filings show, the API paid Edelman a staggering $327.4 million for advertising and public relations services, more than any other contractor.” (source PRnewser)

What happens in DC, typically follows in the state capitols.  Every year, more contract lobbyists, state trade associations, corporations and special interests retain public relations firms to elevate their narratives.  Strategic communications and messaging target a coalition of stakeholders ranging from the news media to thought leaders to activists to public officials.

Some would argue it’s a black eye on American Democracy, while others argue it’s educating the public on the merits of issues that impact their daily lives.

I’m the first to admit that PR is used to persuade minds and influence public policy.  That’s a given.  However, I disagree with the study’s premise that it’s about manufacturing misinformation.  In today’s Digital Age, people are media savvy, so if PR looks like spin, smells like spin, and feels like spin (a.k.a. Astroturf), then it often backfires and becomes a liability.

I would counter that it’s not how much PR is being used to influence public policy, but rather, the absence of public relations.  When there’s no PR, that’s when the red flags should go up and the public made aware.

About Patrick Slevin

Patrick Slevin heads SL7 Consulting.  Go to www.PatrickSlevin.com for more information.