Develop a communications campaign to achieve the state's growth vision
To successfully implement a statewide growth management program, it is imperative that the Governor and his or her administration develop a communications campaign that explains the State's growth and development vision, principles and goals to the public and what will happen if the vision is not attained.
The Governor should direct the Office of Smart Growth, state planning office, or other appropriate agency, as well as his or her communications staff, to develop a carefully planned and comprehensive communications campaign focused on the state's growth vision and strategy. The campaign, which should be led by a designated communications director, must target the public, local government officials, and even state agency employees. A successful campaign will not only convince the public of the need for a new approach to development, but also of the ability and will of the state to transform the built environment for the betterment of the state's citizens. An important part of such a campaign is to identify and highlight local champions, especially local officials, as well as worthy models of action at the local level. This will position the overall effort so that it is not viewed as driven from the top down, but rather as an approach that is responding to local demand and which has local support.A communications strategy should have the following elements:
- If appropriate, the Governor should be promoted as the leader of this effort.
- The Governor's speechwriter, press staff, and the public information officers in state agencies should be involved in discussions about the elements of this campaign so they thoroughly understand the overall approach and each government agency's specific role.
- The campaign should have an appealing, aspirational name. The Governor and top members of the administration should refer to the campaign by name at every opportunity until it becomes a household phrase.
- The campaign should focus on "quality of life" issues such as providing vibrant, attractive communities, protecting the scenic beauty of remaining green spaces; ensuring plentiful and safe drinking water (the primary reason Americans vote to increase their taxes for conservation is to protect their sources of drinking water); dealing with traffic congestion (the "time tax"); and addressing public health issues ranging from air pollution to a built environment that discourages exercise and promotes obesity.
- The campaign should be about offering citizens choices — choices in housing, choices in transportation, choices in lifestyles.
- The campaign should develop a list that can be used to explain clearly to the public the negative impacts of growth on the state and what is almost certain to happen if the challenges of growth and development are not addressed.
- A campaign should include media field trips to visit examples of good development or wise preservation — examples that the administration hopes will be replicated elsewhere in the state. These field trips could include legislators, local government officials, business leaders, and others.
- State of Maryland
Both leading up to and following the enactment of its Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation initiative in 1997, the State of Maryland engaged in active communications campaign that was critical to generating legislative, stakeholder, and public support for the effort. The Governor participated in numerous public events to highlight aspects of the smart growth initiative, and consistently referred to the effort in his speeches. A GIS-based video showing the change in development patterns over time was created and used widely to show how dispersed the state's development pattern had become. Cabinet secretaries were expected to use their positions to discuss how their agencies were contributing to the smart growth effort. The staff developed a smart growth Web site and produced a variety of printed documents, ranging from "toolbox" brochures listing various state smart growth programs to pocket-size fact sheets about various smart growth issues or bumper stickers with smart growth slogans ("More Choices — Better Places"). A smart growth speakers' series was initiated, as were annual Youth Environmental Summits for high school students and a "Picture the Maryland You Want" art and photo contest for school students. Cabinet and staff made regular and frequent presentations to a broad array of groups, from local governments to stakeholder groups to non-profit and advocacy organizations. Individual news reporters were taken on tours of smart growth sites. The state gave out smart growth awards, and sought awards for its activities as evidence of outside validation for the smart growth effort. Staff to the Governor also helped identify and celebrate the contributions of local officials or other local supporters as "Smart Growth Champions."