Turning Vision Into Action
One of the largest Superfund sites in the nation, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal sits just 10 miles northeast of Denver in a diverse, densely populated area. Since the 1980s, MGA Communications has supported the U.S. Army, Shell Oil Co. and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as they work to complete a $2.4 billion cleanup of the site and transform it into a national wildlife refuge.
Named one of the “Top Five PR Campaigns of the Decade” by The Holmes Report, the communications program was designed to:
- Build support for a cleanup solution that would be protective of human health and the environment;
- Develop a multiagency employee communications program that fostered excellence and collaboration;
- Develop collaborative working relationships with the regulatory agencies to ensure timely, accurate and consistent communications;
- Respond swiftly and responsibly during crisis; and
- Create a vision and build support for a national wildlife refuge at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
Given the length, size and complexity of the program, nearly every public relations and marketing tool has been employed to achieve the goals. Areas of concentration within the scope of work include strategic planning, community outreach, research, media and government relations, collateral development, special event planning and crisis and issues management. At every step, MGA and its partners have stressed that open, two-way, face-to-face communication that far exceeds regulatory requirements is the best approach.
The MGA Solution
The strategies and tactics employed that have been most critical or used most comprehensively are:
Primary and secondary research. Throughout the program, MGA used extensive primary and secondary research – both qualitative and quantitative – to understand the public’s knowledge and concerns and to measure the effectiveness of the outreach program.
Effective collaborative relationships. MGA and its partners created a multiagency, on-site communications team to promote collaboration. In addition, they formed a working group with their regulatory counterparts and agreed to “speak with one voice” to the greatest extent possible to provide clear, accurate communications.
Multifaceted, targeted and extensive community outreach. The Arsenal developed multiple print and electronic publications that reach more than 65,000 stakeholders on a regular basis. The communications team also develops marketing collateral of all types to promote opportunities at the refuge, manages an extensive speakers bureau, stages large special events, conducts tours and briefings and administers a website and social media program.
Crisis communications planning and collaborative execution. MGA and its partners developed a comprehensive crisis communications plan in partnership with community advisory boards, regulatory agencies and emergency responders. Joint news releases are developed with the regulatory agencies whenever possible.
Government and media relations. MGA provides regular briefings and tours to these groups and developed an electronic publication specifically targeted to their needs.
At the End of the Day
- Public support of the cleanup program has enabled the remedy to stay on track over two decades, despite unexpected crises and numerous federal administration changes. The $2.4 billion cleanup is within budget and slated to end a full year ahead of schedule.
- The internal, multiagency communications program helped foster collaboration and excellence. The site has won numerous national safety and environmental awards and been recognized as a model of public-private partnership.
- According to qualitative and quantitative research conducted at different points, public confidence about the cleanup program and communications received from the site have remained high throughout the program.
- The community outreach program resulted in residents’ voicing strong support for the transformation of the site into a national wildlife refuge. Today, more than 20,000 people a year visit the refuge. The recent reintroduction of bison generated more than 1,500 comments of support, and media coverage netted more than 34 million impressions worldwide.