Case Study: Strategy Revision, Multi-Media, Major Competitor
Jane Reiman, former Mayor,
City of Carmel, Indiana
I was elected mayor in large part because Bill Corbin served as communication director for a citizens group I headed to fight against a proposed pari-mutuel racetrack on our northern border.
He helped us pull off one of the biggest upsets in community referendum history!
Some called me Rocky after this opportunity to bring savvy and wordcrafting to a community referendum:
Served as volunteer communication head for a citizens group fighting against a pari-mutuel racetrack in our Hoosier community (upscale north suburb of Indianapolis).
We were trailing substantially in the polls when I signed on. Committee morale was in the tank.
I dueled head-to-head with multiple specialists from a New York City public relations firm hired by the deep-pocketed track developer. Media included newspaper ads, TV/radio spots, brochures, speeches and weekly side-by-side newspaper columns (actually debates-in-print, Corbin vs. the giant’s hired guns).
My persuasion strategy was a major emphasis shift away from a “gambling is bad” morality focus. It resonated strongly with some, but many voters simply didn’t view a day at the track as evil. The “impact on lifestyle” focus is illustrated by the talking point paragraphs below, used in multiple media.
Won the referendum vote 91% to 9%.
Talking Points: Carmel Citizens Against Parimutuel
Some have wondered why an Indiana developer would hire a group of New York public relations professionals to promise us great benefits from a pari-mutuel race track.
Here’s a possible reason. It’s easier to be excited about the benefits of a giant race track if you don’t have to live with the consequences. In fact, to this point, the promoters sound like they can tuck a hundred acre facility into the north border of our town and no one will notice it’s there.
The developer admits to hoping for daily attendance in the 10,000 range. Given our lack of a public transit system, that’s likely 7,500+ cars, the majority coming from Indianapolis to the south, glutting our already crowded Keystone and Meridian throughways twice a day.
As we all know, glutted main roads lead to impatient travelers seeking shortcuts through our subdivisions. We don’t doubt that the majority of racetrack visitors will be good folks behaving well. But it’s certain that some will have enjoyed too many mint juleps (or whatever our drink-of-choice might turn out to be). And some will be participants in the darker side of the gambling industry.
It is not our purpose to deny Indiana citizens a newly-legalized racetrack. We can imagine driving to a safely remote rural location where the track is the star attraction, and enjoying the experience.
But the idea that outsiders would attempt to sell this track on the north border of Carmel, Indiana is a disgusting try at profiteering that both exploits and endangers the hard-earned reputation for safety and livability of the town we call home.