The local ABC news crew just left my house moments ago. On top of a pandemic, protests, and my dog being in the vet hospital yesterday, my neighbor informs me an asphalt company is attempting to rezone the community where I live to move in across the street from me. At first, I felt helpless. I felt powerless. Fresh from a personal development course and remembering the #21DayPRActionGuide challenge we’re doing together, I asked myself, “How can I put the change I wish to see on loudspeaker?” Because I was able to get results in less than 24 hours, I want to unpack that for you. Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll share more. I’m turning the overwhelm I initially feel into blog entries. Hopefully, this expression will help educate you and we can create community change we wish to see: be it locally, nationally, or internationally.
STEP 1 ☝️
Feel the outrage.
STEP 2 ☝️
Focus on the call to action.
STEP 3 ☝️
Create media materials that educate, entertain, and enlighten.
STEP 4 ☝️
Contact the public through earned, owned, and paid media.
STEP 5 ☝️
Repeat. Focus on the call to action.
So, let me share with you the steps I’ve taken since Monday about a local issue. On Monday, a neighbor direct messages me on Facebook and says, “Hey Michelle, did you know an asphalt plant has applied to rezone your neighborhood so it can move in across the street from you?” I did not know this, had not been notified by my county despite contacting them in the past to remain informed of zoning changes. I’m a precinct leader of my community, East Flat Rock, and try to make any county planning meeting I can.
🛑 STEP 1
I was furious. Instead of brewing on that feeling, I gathered the facts. I called the Henderson County Planning Department directly and asked all the questions I had. They said by law they weren’t required to notify anyone and that the only people invited to Monday’s meeting lived within 400 feet of said plant. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I said, ‘I live across the street from this property; how can that be possible?” The guy on the phone – Matt – repeated, “Yes, it’s the law. We don’t have to notify you nor the press until August at the third meeting.” So, I faced the “neighborhood compatibility meeting” in one week’s time. Only a handful of people knew about the meeting. Shocking! And that is what I faced. I sat at my desk and started to craft what I did next.
🛑 STEP 2
I started posting on social media to see if anyone else knew about zoning issues. I called friends. I called other activists in my community. I focused on what exactly we should do. What is the call to action we as citizens need to take? I got a call from a friend who saw my posts. She works at the federal level with communities facing similar issues. She focused me on three key areas: 1) the zoning laws matter, 2) there was no notice to neighbors, 3) public input is not sought and since schools, retirement homes and national forests are within 2 miles of the targeted property, these are the issues that mattered most. She said to me Tuesday morning, “Michelle, you have to unite the neighbors and get legal representation immediately. It may already be too late.”
🛑 STEP 3
Like any public relations campaign, I immediately thought through a plan, but couldn’t even write it down. Let me tell you here so you can replicate it in your communities:
💡 Education: I needed to educate my neighbors on what the county was planning for Monday, June 8th.
💡 Entertain: I needed to show the press my 300,000 bees and 50 chickens in my backyard so the community could see that farms live across the street from the targeted property.
💡 Enlighten: I had to unite my hiking, biking, kayaking and politically active friends to help me with the facts. So we could tell the affected taxpayers what they needed to know to take the action so their voice would and could be heard.
🛑 STEP 4
With the help of my husband and a few whitewater kayaking friends and co-leaders in the Democratic party, I contacted the public.
💡 Paid media: Facebook ads and groups are a great way to control your message and get it out to a target group of people. Here’s the one created yesterday: Friends of East Flat Rock Say No to Asphalt Plant https://www.facebook.com/groups/251151092979467
💡 Owned media: Your own website is the best way to focus on action and messaging. Here is what my husband (and the person who oversees my PR firm’s technology) created last night: https://friendsofeastflatrock.org/
💡 Earned media: I told the press and they started to cover the story. Here are articles already showing up:
I’ll post the TV interview later. But this blog is for you, so you can learn how we prepared for it in less than 30 minutes.
🛑 STEP 5
My local Democratic precinct co-chairs, Chris Berg and Cathy Taylor used their voting information to call neighbors to let them know. While friends like Sarah Ruhlen and Shane Benedict activated those interested in tourism: mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, hiking and so forth. We asked everyone to start sharing their owned assets (Facebook page and website) to spread the information widely. More interested people started to call. Texts and instant messages putting me in touch with influential people in the community started to flood in. Sarah Ruhlen even sent her drone in the air to secure more assets for the press to illustrate the land targeted and its surrounding residential communities.
Now all we do is repeat.
If you’re wanting to secure PR for any cause, business, or service, join me. I never imagined I’d have such an issue to illustrate for you during our #21DayPRActionGuide June 2020 challenge, but here we are. And fresh from my personal development course this past weekend with www.LandmarkWorldwide.com I’m feeling super empowered to focus on my commitments versus my complaints. In fact, if you’re feeling overwhelmed personally and need to get unstuck, I highly recommend Landmark, especially their “Self-Expression and Leadership” course. It’s where I met my business partner, Drew Gerber. He and I credit Landmark to the success we share. There is an evening online event where I’ll finish my course and I’m allowed to invite others. It’s free and you can check it out for yourself. Here’s the link if that interests you.
If you want to meet with me live and ask me questions about PR, don’t forget Fridays June 5, 12 and 19 at 1 pm eastern, I’m meeting with the PitchRate.com community and others who have downloaded my “21 Day PR Action Guide: The Who, What, When, and Where To Launch a Successful PR Campaign.”
Download the workbook for free (no opt-in) at: PitchRate.com
📢 Get committed.
📢 Take action.
📢 Ask the press to put your voice on loudspeaker.