PR Team: Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York (New York), CooperKatz (New York), M&R Strategic Services (New York), AmericaSpeaks (Washington, DC) and Jasculca/Terman (Chicago) Campaign: "Listening to the City: Remember and Rebuild" Time Frame: May-July 2002 Budget: Approx. $2.1 million total ($64,000 for PR)When the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York decided to elicit feedback on proposals for the World Trade Center site, it knew it wanted a different kind of public meeting: one with participants who represented the diversity of New York City and its suburbs. In addition, the alliance, a coalition of more than 85 local groups, wanted the meeting to reach a consensus about the plans, instead of generating such disparate comments that leaders could safely ignore them. The group needed publicity before the July 20 event at the Jacob Javits Center to get people to register, and make sure its result was noted. "They wanted the participants to know that the decision makers heard them," says Steve Rubel, manager of client services at CooperKatz. Strategy The Civic Alliance hired CooperKatz to create marketing materials and oversee media relations, and M&R Strategic Services to do community outreach (the event was developed by AmericaSpeaks and staged by Jasculca/Terman). The meeting would be set up so that the 5,000 participants would hold face-to-face discussions at tables of up to a dozen people, with a facilitator and a computer. Rubel says the key media strategy was to work across all media, from national to "granular" - borough, neighborhood, and ethnic publications, as well as radio and cable-TV outlets. The team, which held weekly planning meetings over a mere three months, worked on crafting messages coaxing people to be part of democracy in action. Tactics The media work included press conferences, story pitches, calendar listings, PSAs, ready-made articles for community newsletters, and letters to the editor under the names of community leaders and September 11 victims' family members. Paid advertising was used when the team determined that some audiences weren't being reached. In its community undertaking, M&R worked with local politicians, businesspeople, and other leaders, and leafleted at rallies, block parties, and street festivals to recruit participants. The PR team shot b-roll throughout the day, and brought back footage - as well as a stream of new documents with updated statistics from the polling - to the on-site media. CooperKatz brought in and trained student volunteers from Syracuse University to help, including limiting the number of camera crews on the floor so as not to interfere with the proceedings. "It was a balance between making sure their needs were fully covered and that they did not intrude," explains Rubel. Results The desired 5,000 people attended the event, which was covered by 250 outlets, including 30 broadcast crews (CNN and MSNBC carried it live). The reaction to the design plans was overwhelmingly negative. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority decided to hire seven new design teams to come up with new proposals. "It was an unbelievable achievement," says Petra Todorovich, associate planner at the Regional Plan Association, which convened and staffed the Civic Alliance. "Because the meeting received so much coverage," she says, the decision makers "were forced to take note and show real action in responding to the public will." News of the meeting reached an audience of 77.5 million through thousands of newspaper stories and over 650 TV reports. The event was praised in New York Times and Newsday editorials, and by Daily News columnist Pete Hamill, whose review was headlined, "Thrilling Show of People Power." Future The final design, among new proposals, was chosen last week.