Changing The Communication Landscape Through Construction

By Chad Gamble Public Service Director City of Lansing, MI | March 2010 Vol. 65 No. 3
  • Guerilla marketing tactics (clever construction-related phrases chalked on the sidewalk and orange barrels wrapped in banners, followed by Lansing “Hard Hat Day”, on which play hard hats were handed out downtown) were used to announce the kickoff of construction in the spring;
  • Third- and fourth-grade student art banners decorated construction fencing in downtown areas; the drawings and written passages depicted what a “cleaner, greener Lansing” means to local elementary students;
  • Construction University (Construction U) coordinated an educational program site along the Grand River as part of Lansing’s annual “Be A Tourist In Your Own Town” one-day event where families learned about the environmental benefits of CSO, played on construction machinery and interacted with Swish; and
  • To wrap up the 2009 construction season, BBQ Block Parties were held for neighborhoods in completed CSO construction project areas; dinner was served to residents at no charge along with activities for the children. Surveys were conducted at Block Parties to assess the effectiveness of CSO communication to neighborhoods and businesses.

Impressive results
What the entire CSO team found was remarkable. Residents said the environmental results were among the top aspects of CSO they were most satisfied with (23 percent), second only to access to local roads (28 percent). More than four-fifths of residents, 81 percent, said they felt well informed about the project. Of those who did not feel well informed, about a quarter indicated that they did not attend public meetings or had moved into the area in the middle of the project.

“The real success of the 2009 construction season was the ability to communicate the purpose of our project,” said McPherson. “Working hand-in-hand with the businesses and neighborhoods we’re impacting in the short-term really helped them understand the benefits of CSOs … and when the surrounding community is understanding, it makes our job easier.”

The multi-year communications plan built on the efforts of the 2008 construction season. The strategic planning of these efforts earned the CSO Control Program top honors with the Central Michigan Public Relations Society of America’s PACE Award of Excellence in Public Service, awarded in early 2009.