As with almost any announcement of a proposed development or project, there will be at least some opposition. To believe that a project will be embraced by all is naïve at best. Depending on the type of project, the intensity of opposition varies, and it typically involves well-coordinated local activists or known special interest groups – sometimes with deep pockets and significant experience working similar issues.
How do you identify these groups? There are several steps you can take. First, research similar announcements or issues to determine which groups have opposed other projects. Identify the spokespersons for the opposition. Research their comments in the media, claims and charges they have made, their professional backgrounds and the groups’ experience on other high-profile issues.
Furthermore, find out if the opposition is aligned with large, national special interest groups. Many times, organizations will assemble smaller coalitions or groups to remain anonymous, and to bring a local connection to the fight. Research the group’s donations to political campaigns or causes. This will provide a wealth of information on politicians or trade associations that might oppose your project.
The bottom line is, due diligence is paramount before making your announcement. The opposition will be waiting to pounce, and many of these groups thrive on emotion and creating chaos.
The opposition can and will utilize a wide range of communications and other tactics to derail a proposed project. In almost every issue or crisis, the opposition loves to spar in the media and often they find sympathetic, even activist, journalists only too willing to use their bully pulpits to aid the efforts of the opposition.
Public fights reach the masses and have the potential to damage brands and reputations. Good preparation means you can assure that you have a pretty good idea of the messages that will be propagated by the media, who the players are that will oppose your efforts and which ones will support your project.
Your primary objective is not to silence opponents, but to assure that theirs’ is not the only story told and that the public knows all sides of the issue which include your key messages. Armed with knowledge – in other words, “the whole story” – citizens in and around the site where you plan a project can make truly informed decisions and act according their best interests.