After You Beat Them, Join Them
One thing that I hear a great deal is our clients telling us that they do all these things, but say, “We don’t like to make a big deal out of it.”
Wrong! Make a big deal of it. The mayor and council members look for opportunities to have their names and faces in the local newspaper, whether it’s accepting an oversized check or attending the dedication of a new baseball field.
This will benefit you in two ways. First, you create goodwill around your community. People identify you with generosity and recognize you as being part of their community. By keeping your involvement a secret, it will be easier for those who oppose your future projects or expansions to demonize you. If the general public knows you and considers you a good corporate citizen, attempts to demonize you may very well backfire on them.
Second, the mayor, city councilor, or county commissioner will be less likely to oppose you if they had their picture in the local paper with you at a ribbon cutting or accepting a check or even attending an event at your current operation. They will find it harder to oppose you if you have given them positive publicity over the years.
You should also keep track of the organizations and causes that benefited from your generosity. When the time comes for you to seek another approval or for someone to stand up for you as a good corporate neighbor, this database is a great place to start in order to identify organization-based supporters.
Be a good neighbor
The absolutely most important action you can take to create goodwill in the community is also the cheapest and the simplest: be responsive. Make sure you promptly answer inquiries from neighbors, even if it is to say that you do not know the answer, but that you will find out. Unanswered phone calls, e-mails, or letters are incredibly frustrating, lead the caller to think the worst about the company, and may lead to complaints that you don’t care about the neighborhood being made to governing bodies. You may not be able to satisfy the original complaint, but do not let anyone be able to say that you did not respond.
Your local plant manager is your face in the community, especially in smaller towns and counties. Egos should be put in check while you let your local manager take the credit and be the focus of local newspaper coverage. Regional vice presidents, presidents, and CEOs usually do not work and live in the community where the quarry is located, probably not even in the same state and, in some cases, not even the same country. They are not the face to the neighbors; let your local person develop the goodwill with the community and elected officials.
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