Wall Street Journal: Developers Using Social Media to Fight Opponents

posted by Patrick Slevin

A recent Associated Press report featured in the Wall Street Journal, Developers Using Social Media to Fight Opponents, dispels the notion that NIMBYism is suppressed due to the recession. In fact, it has thrived and as the market begins to recover, billions of dollars in investment capital, revenue, shareholder value, and market share are at risk.  Corporate executives, investors, developers, public officials, and consultants should pay closer attention to the undercurrent rising up on the real estate market.

The article reports how a “bunch of moms” on Long Island used social media, Facebook, to mobilize opposition against a $100 million housing project by AvalonBay Communities.  The article touches upon several characteristics worth a closer look:

1.  “Bunch of moms” were able to mobilize opposition to protest at town hall via phone on Facebook.  The opposition leader quoted in the story cited similar opposition groups around the country, providing her a template in fighting Goliath developers;

2. The WSJ story cites opposition groups in Richmond, VA and Chicago, using Facebook to oppose big box and other projects. 

3.  According to the report, the “industry was taken by surprise” and the “developer was caught off guard” by the intensity of opposition and the effectiveness of social media. “Backers of the development were stunned.” 

4.   Not everyone believes a developer should use Facebook to counter NIMBY opposition.

5.  It was a victory for the little guy.  The classic David vs. Goliath genre article.

6.  The article title reflects the Us. v. Them perspective.  Sustainable projects secure social equity vs. having to “fight” the community for support. Social media is a communications tool that delivers facts, dispels gossip and respects (all) opinions of the community that grants it the social license to operate. 

Pass this blog on to your colleagues and create more awareness.  The longer the industry keeps its head in the sand and hopes NIMBY conflict doesn’t find their projects, the more projects will experience the “shock & awe” of a bunch of moms. 

Patrick Slevin is senior vice president of Hill & Knowlton, an international communications consultancy firm with 83 offices in 44 nations.  He counsels corporate developers on how to win social equity and political approvals for controversial real estate projects.  Patrick is a highly-sought speaker who is available to speak at your next trade conference, chapter meeting,  or corproate retreat.

He can be reached at Patrick.Slevin@HillandKnowlton.com or phone him directly at 850.222.4100.

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