FRENCH LICK, IN: A grassroots PR effort that included giving away American flags for the Fourth of July has helped Donald Trump win the right to build a new casino in Orange County, an economically depressed area in Indiana.
Trump even beat out local superstar Larry Bird.
To garner local support for its casino bid, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts worked with Indianapolis agency MZD Advertising Marketing and Public Relations.
MZD had sought out Trump as a client in April as the battle lines were being drawn for the casino license competition, said Drew Crockett, director of PR at MZD. Basketball legend Bird was competing for the license, as was a third group with local ties.
The agency positioned Trump as the bidder with the most experience running casinos and as a company that cared about the local community.
Trump pledged to give $5 million each to refurbish two local resort hotels in French Lick and West Baden that flourished in the 1920s but have since fallen on hard times.
MZD staff visited people and businesses in the area before July 4th, offering to replace worn-out American flags with new ones. One citizen at a public meeting mentioned that act as a sign that Trump truly cared about locals, Crockett said.
With no daily newspaper in the county, media relations focused on the local weekly and TV stations in Louisville, KY, and Evansville, IN, which are watched in the area.
When Trump could not make it to the gaming-board presentation, MZD put together a video of him talking about what his plans were for the casino, Crockett said.
MZD's efforts enabled Trump to gain the endorsement of a key local group, the Historic Hotel Preservation Commission.
The commission's recommendation figured into the final decision by the Indiana Gaming Board in mid-July to give the license for the new casino to Trump, Crockett said.
MZD, which also works with the Orange County Indiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, put two PR people and two other staffers on the Trump account.