Target Corporation sought assistance securing permission to build the "Gift of Mary Home for Children."  The brainchild of Mary Jo Copeland, the children's home had been labeled an "orphanage" by the opposition and had generated a whirlwind of negative press as it attempted to find a home in other twin cities communities.  Having failed in five other cities, Target approached Weber Shandwick in the spring of 2002 to develop a strategy that would be successful in getting the home placed in Eagan, MN. 

  

Approach

Weber Shandwick's approach was to generate public awareness of the issue, present an alternative perspective than the one that existed in the mainstream press and make it clear that Eagan had the right to make this decision for themselves.   We did this by forming a local community coalition that enlisted the support of influential community leaders, communicated the benefits of the home to the community and encouraged support of the home through ongoing media relations.

 

The targeted audiences were community leaders, city council members, and the general public and key messages focused on children in need and the ability of Eagan to make thier own decisions without interference from outsiders. 

 

Strategies

  • Build the H.O.P.E. coalition by recruiting local residents, business leaders and supportive community organizations. 
  • In order to communicate the benefits of this home, Weber Shandwick enlisted the help of a similar children's home in Texas.  We brought an alumn of the Texas home to Eagan and secured a speaking opportunity at the local Kiwanis lunch.  The luncheon was attended by over 100 community leaders and resulted in extensive local media coverage.
  • To further the communities understanding of the proposed home, we developed a fact finding mission to a similar home in Texas.  Two community leaders were selected and spent two days touring the facility and interviewing children, faculty and community leaders.  They reported the results back to H.O.P.E. Coalition and stood ready to conduct media interviews if necessary.  
  • Effective, targeted media relations supported our objective of communicating benefits to children and driving support.  Weber Shandwick focused on local media outlets and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press rather than combating other media who had already editorialized against the home.

Results

The campaign resulted in numerous press clips, equal representation at community forums and over 100 supporters at the city council meeting that outnumbered opponents four to one.  Most importantly, at the end of the four-month campaign the Eagan City Council voted 4-1 in favor of granting Mary Jo Copeland a building permit for the new home.