The coastal town of Asbury Park, NJ, has a much-loved history as the starting ground for rock legend Bruce Springsteen.But in recent decades, the area has been in decline, despite the promise of redevelopment projects. A new effort by multiple builders to construct more than 800 condominiums in the area is now under way, but even this new project has been plagued by problems - including a financial scandal involving the governor.
Jackson, NJ-based Paramount Homes, one of the firms involved in the redevelopment, wanted to create a groundbreaking event that would not only showcase its new efforts, but also raise some much-needed positive publicity. It enlisted the help of real-estate PR expert Paul Entin, and the result was a festival that left everyone feeling good.
"When you have a redevelopment like this that has been blighted for so many years, you have to create confidence and goodwill," says Carolyn Villani, VP of sales and marketing for Paramount Homes. "Basically, our goal was to create confidence. The past problems in Asbury were truly [due to] the lack of confidence."
With just 60 days to plan a media-worthy event, Entin and Villani first set out to make it a joint effort between all the companies involved in the project, including competitors, as a way to show key constituents that the project was moving forward.
Next, the team decided on an outdoor party that would be open to the public. The team also specifically invited local political and business leaders.
"We wanted to do something different than just the typical groundbreaking with shovels, although we did end up with the gold-plated shovels," says Entin.
The party was meant to generate media coverage to create public interest in purchasing the condos.
The team sent out VIP invitations and began corralling key attendees, such as local politicians. The team also began pitching media, both locally and in major sales target areas, such as New York and Philadelphia. It also specifically courted the gay press because the area has a large gay community.
The team then arranged for four large tents to be erected at the groundbreaking site and booked a Bruce Springsteen tribute band to make sure the event had energy.
"In the end, we pulled together to create confidence for the local officials and the residents in the area to let them know we are serious about this and say, 'Come and enjoy this party with us. We will feed you, wine, and dine you just so you understand we're here, and we are here to stay,'" says Villani.
Although it was a joint effort between multiple companies, Villani and Entin also created a press kit specifically for Paramount. Using the creative idea of putting all the materials on a branded clipboard with Paramount's name and phone number, they made sure that the media knew pertinent information and had a quick reference when they needed information on the project.
Despite a rainy day, more than 400 people turned out, says Entin. On top of the community involvement, the media also showed interest. By keeping speeches "short and sweet," says Entin, the crowd was treated to more of a party than a press event.
"The publicity we got was wonderful," points out Villani. "We had coverage from the Associated Press, CBS News Radio, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and GayAsburyPark.com."
That coverage also led to an increase in interest in the development, resulting in a 230% increase in the number of sales calls Paramount was receiving.
Entin says the goal is to keep generating publicity as the project continues. Next up will be an event when the sales trailer is dropped at the site next year.
PR team: Paramount Homes (Jackson, NJ) and Paul Entin of EPR (Bloomsbury, NJ)
Campaign: Asbury Park Groundbreaking
Time frame: August to October 2004