MYTH #2: Developers should talk to as many people in the community as possible.

While this is the exact opposite of the belief that you don’t need to do community outreach at all, it’s equally as wrong.

I recently spoke before MBA students in real estate at one of America’s finest universities. The previous speaker, an intelligent and articulate local elected official, urged the future developers to “talk to as many people as possible in the community” about their projects. While that may make eminent sense from the standpoint of City Hall, it can be bad advice for those seeking entitlements for controversial projects.

Outreach tactics designed to reach as wide an audience as possible can often backfire by generating more community opposition than would otherwise exist. Depending on the circumstances, direct mail, ad campaigns, public relations and mass meetings may actually alarm the public and alert potential opponents. Talking to “as many people as possible” can stir up people who were uninvolved in the debate, validate vague fears, and advise citizens of new issues to be concerned about. A more targeted, focused approach is advisable.

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