Engaging Wanaka with strategic PR and communications

How do you engage the community over a potentially controversial issue?

That was the question charitable organisation the Wanaka Watersports Facility Trust asked Scope Media recently as they proceed towards their goal of creating a fantastic facility for Wanaka.

The Wanaka Watersports Facility Trust is driving a project to build a high quality, functional, low-profile lakefront facility, to support the increasing numbers involved in non-motorised watersports in Wanaka. Trustees have identified Roys Bay Reserve, next to the Stoney Creek car park, as the preferred location.

The main issue is of course the lakeside location – being lakeside means that there will be objection to the proposal. The Trust recognises that Roys Bay is a privileged waterside position and is sensitive to concerns from those who love Wanaka’s lakefront. The Trust believes their concept plans are consistent with the objectives of the Wanaka Lakefront Reserves Management Plan, which allows buildings on the lakefront, but also realises it needs to address the concerns of others.

Scope Media met the Wanaka Watersports Facility Trust to discuss the best possible strategy for PR and communications. We worked out what the trust really stood for and how we could communicate that to the Wanaka community to get them to understand why this facility is needed on the shore and not across a road.

The idea was to get as many people who did understand the need for this building to submit to Queenstown District Council in support of a provision for the Trust to build a facility in Roys Bay Reserve so that the council would understand the depth of support the project has.

In order to achieve this, we prepared a list of story ideas for media and wrote media releases throughout a five-week campaign. We helped prepare a document that was distributed to letterboxes and advertised in Wanaka’s weekly bulletin, the Messenger. We reached out to stakeholders within the community to spread the message even further.

We also helped promote a special event to launch the Trust’s Foundation Club – a club that recognises the first benefactors who donated to the cause. Following that event, $20,000 was raised to go towards professional services to help the facility become a reality. At the launch, the animation video of the Trust’s planned facility was also unveiled. This was created by Dunedin animation expert Ian Taylor from Animation Research Limited.

There was also a strong social media component to this campaign. During the five-week period, the number of likes on the Trust’s Facebook Page increased by 116%. We helped manage and produce the content surrounding the launch of the Foundation Club and animation – and over this two-day period, 4324 people were reached organically on Facebook.

Stories ran in the Otago Daily Times, the Southland Times, the Mirror, Wanaka Sun, on Newstalk ZB, Radio Wanaka and blog 360-queenstownwanaka.com.

We needed to make sure people were making submissions to the draft plan as a first step – and that’s been achieved. By the end of the consultation period, a whopping 377 submissions were made, with the majority of those in relation to the watersports facility. About 255 of those supported the policy that would potentially allow a new building in Roys Bay Reserve, while 46 opposed.

It’s not over yet – if the plan includes a provision for a facility, the Trust will then need to get consent for the building stage.

Do you have an issue that needs some strategic PR and communications advice? Give us a call – we’d be happy to help.

Written by Celia Crosbie

Celia is an award-winning journalist who has worked for newspapers and radio stations in New Zealand and magazines in the United Kingdom. She has worked in public relations in both NZ and London. Celia also specialises in digital media strategy and website copywriting for SEO.

@CELIACROSBIE