Construction community relations 101: Making nice with NIMBYs
3 ways to increase community support for your projects
Anyone in commercial development or construction has come across a NIMBY. You know the type … the person standing up at the community meeting or sending the email exclaiming: “Not In My BackYard!”
NIMBYs are very passionate about their community and eager to protect life as they know it. And for construction projects, very vocal NIMBYs can delay – or even derail – projects. While the die-hard NIMBYs may be tough to sway, having a plan for how to engage with them and prevent them from influencing more NIMBYs has many benefits.
Here are some tips for making nice with NIMBYS.
- Find supporters
While not all neighbors are NIMBYs, it can be difficult to identify supporters if a few NIMBYs dominate the conversation. Fearing neighborhood tension, those in favor of a project may be afraid to speak out if a groundswell of opposition is building. On the flip side, if neighbors see a wave of support and understand the benefits of a project, the NIMBYs may come out in fewer numbers. Therefore, it’s important to identify supporters early and mobilize them to help spread positive messages.
Where can you find supporters? Perhaps in the local chamber of commerce or within certain pro-development neighborhood groups. Identify the potential project users within the neighborhood and ways to reach them. If you have a solid communications plan (see next tip), then you won’t be flying blindly trying to find your supporters.
- Have a communications plan
Communications planning should be a central part of any construction or development project. Working with your in-house communications team or agency, develop a plan that addresses how you’ll handle community relations every step of the way. The plan should address everything from community meetings, newsletters, proactive and reactive social media, and media relations.
It’s important to put the communications planning ahead of the marketing planning. While it’s fun and exciting to think about the signage and other creative elements surrounding a construction project, nothing will upset a NIMBY more than coming across a glossy rendering about a project they know nothing about. Start your communication early and communicate often to make nice with NIMBYs and the community at large.
- Be responsive and approachable
Despite best efforts to communicate, misinformation spreads like wildfire in the age of social media. And misinformation can be your worst enemy when you’re dealing with NIMBYs. By monitoring media and social media, participating in community forums, and having an outlet for people to reach you with concerns, you’ll be able to ensure accurate information is out there, and you reduce the amount of misinformation people share. It’s helpful to identify one or two project spokespersons to serve as the face of the project at meetings, in media interviews, and in one-on-one communications.
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