Takin' it [marketing] to the streets

I will soon be leaving my loft apartment with the spiral staircase on Lake Woodcross to buy a new home, complete with an office, craft room and garage! All this house-shopping, packing and planning has me thinking about the versatile nature of neighborhood association marketing.

Most neighborhood associations have low-tech communication techniques. A favorite tool is the mailbox flyer, which is often used for announcing crime watch meetings or coordinating Christmas luminaries. Always the enterprising entrepreneur, Jerry Fowler developed a special brand of sticky notes to leave messages on voters’ doors while he was running for the school board. I’ve also seen smokers get a clear message of discarded cigarette butts placed in a Ziplock bag on the front step. Sometimes you need to communicate a stronger stance beyond the subtle state of your porch light on Halloween!

Then you get into the high-end neighborhood association marketing techniques. Lake Carolina has convenient, approachable shops for residents at its Town Center (talk about recruitment!), and there’s even a neighborhood church. After all, who wouldn’t mind living in Pleasantville when you can walk to Groucho’s?

The variance is incredible. Cobblestone has a high-end marketing directory of preferred providers for everything from photographers to attic cleaners. Meanwhile, residents at Green Springs banded together by word of mouth to help a cancer survivor save her beloved egret. Assorted communication techniques fit the needs of different neighborhoods while producing the same result: bringing people together. And regardless of where you live, garage sales will always be announced by simple, directional cardboard fliers!

Despite the freedom of communication forums, all neighborhood associations must be aware of the public relations implications of their actions. For instance, Green Springs residents repainted a sprawling fence and spruced up the entryway — communicating a message of pride in the neighborhood.

On the other hand, the usually slow-moving Harbison Area unilaterally decided to exterminate the geese at Lake Woodcross and feed them to the homeless without consulting residents several months ago. It made the evening news, complete with close-up shots of silent feathers.

Since then, Lake Woodcross has attracted a whole new brood of geese, and Harbison has gotten smarter. They constructed permanent signs several feet from the watery shoreline shaped like a mother duck and her flock to warn visitors that the lake is a “no feeding zone” for wildlife. The signs are attractive and artistic — and they explain that human food can interfere with animals’ natural feeding and migratory patterns. It’s just a shame it took an enormous PR blunder to produce such a welcome educational tool!

The lessons we can take away from this situation are: 1) Make sure your communication methods are approriate for the neighborhood where you live, 2) Plan for public relations issues that may affect your neighborhood, and 3) The problems you try hardest to remove from your neighborhood always have a stubborn way of returning. Let’s take a lesson from the geese!

To read about some great Northeast neighborhood associations (written by yours truly), visit
http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/15731939.htm.

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