Monday, June 23, 2008

Randrom free PR advice to some folks who want to build a building downtown

An email I sent to a buddy awhile back that I'd meant to post here. Enjoy or not.

A little free PR advice to some folks in the development world:

In my mind the battle to build the convention center downtown was lost in August 2003 when Public Funds for Public Purposes canvassed Olympia City Council members' neighborhoods and asked the residents what they thought of the convention center. All of the neighborhoods had a large majority against the project, with Doug Mah's I remember being up around 90 percent.

PFPP did a lot with this information, including standing up against the wall during a city council candidate debate, holding signs saying "Doug: 90 percent of your neighbors don't want the convention center."

This is an important lesson for the Larida Pasage debate because it illustrates what happens when you lose control of the narrative. The council and the city bumbled around with the details of the convention center, and let opponents build a case against it as the details came to light.

We're also getting very close to the point (maybe within days) of this happening with Larida Passage. I know its a small example, but its a bad sign that I can't drive to the Safeway without seeing half-a-dozen signs saying "Don't Wall of the Waterfront" or "Save our Views." There should at least be competing signage saying "Save Downtown."

In this case, its more of downtown residents talking about what they see as the negatives of the project. Keep in mind, downtowners' negatives aren't necessarily the negatives that would be seen from someone outside downtown. If the project suddenly appeared tomorrow, most Olympia residents wouldn't see it as a big deal. Most downtowners would be apoplectic.

So, define the positives of the project from the perspective of someone living in S. Capitol, off of Cain Rd. or near Garfield School.

For example: How are walkers around Capitol Lake going see the project? The size of the buildings, from someone walking the north side of the lake or the south sidewalk of 5th would be a turn-off. To these people you need to talk about the ground floor retail and the general sprucing up of the blocks.

By and large, lake walkers are not downtowners. They come down to the lake and walk because it is a downtown feature they enjoy. You could take this same exercise and carry it with any group of people that use downtown, but do not live there. Another example would be folks who attend Lake Fair.

So, its not necessary to fight back against every negative downtowner argument (traffic, views in general, the "feel" of downtown), but rather build parallel and positive argument the project to the sections of the community that will actually decide whether this goes forward.

Strictly countering downtowner arguments will in the end give them more credence and leave the out-of-downtowners no other vision of the project then what the downtowners define it as.

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