By Mike Saint, The Saint Consulting Group
To build public support for a new land use development requires time – lots of time. And no matter how much funding a project developer has and how good his project is, he always has too little time to get everything done, especially when the project is controversial and the opposition is passionate.
Think about the steps every project needs to build public support and how much real time each step requires:
- Researching the political climate and gathering crucial political intelligence.
- Message development.
- Contacting the potential universe of supporters multiple times, which could be very large and time consuming process, depending on the size of the project.
- Creating flyers, a web site, Facebook page, database and other digital media.
- Getting potential supporters to sign up for more information.
- Spending time with supporters and asking them to participate in the political process on behalf of the project. And this ask may require multiple contacts and meetings to get the voter to move from “I don’t know much about your project” to the top of the Advocacy Pyramid where he asks. “What do you want me to say when I come to the public hearing and speak on your behalf?”
Many proponents will delay launching a campaign to build public support. Their reasons for delay may include:
- Waiting for their investors to approve the plan.
- Getting through the internal corporate approval process.
- Waiting to see what opponents and potential opponents may do.
- Waiting for an election or political campaign to end.
- Hoping that maybe no one will oppose them and they won’t need to incur the time and expense of building public support.
- Simple indecision.
- Thinking that spending less time creating a support campaign will mean saving more money.
What they fail to realize is that every day where nothing is done to build support for a project is a wasted day, a day that will never be recovered. You can make more money to pay for support building but you can never, ever make more time to replace that which has been wasted.
Cutting the time spent building support will not save much money in the long run, but it will mean that important steps needed to build public support will not be taken.
Even unfunded or under funded opposition usually is prepared to spend whatever time it takes to build a strong, active corps of opponents.
Opponents usually will spend the time to reach the universe of opponents and get them to fight against the project. And once a local resident signs up to oppose, it is almost always impossible to get him to change his mind. So in many cases, each side is racing to be the first to reach potential allies.
And since the political process often tilts toward the side with the most voters, allowing opponents to get a significant head start in contacting people and signing them up, is almost always a fatal miscalculation.
Mike Saint is chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org