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10 Marketing & PR Tactics for Community Engagement that Quickly Shifted Public Sentiment from Opposition to Accolades for the Three Corners Project in Vero Beach, Florida

by Elisabeth (Lil) Miller-Fox

The City of Vero Beach, Florida put out an RFP for a planning firm to envision the reuse of 38-acres of waterfront, publicly (city-owned) property in Vero Beach, Florida.

In less than 3 months, the community's response to this project drastically shifted from a series of hostile public meetings to giving the planner, Andres Duany/ DPZ CoDESIGN, a standing ovation.  How did it happen?  Marketing & PR.

Done the right way with genuine consideration for the community, marketing & PR have the power to shift public perception that's nearly impossible to achieve without taking all, or most, of these steps.

10 Marketing & PR Tactics . . .   that moved this initiative from a negative position to success in just 2.5 months from November 19, 2019 to January 31, 2020 (with Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year in between).  I hope these tips help in your community. 

#1 – Give Your Project a “Working Name”  =  Three Corners

The property being envisioned for redevelopment encompassed three physical corners – the “old power plant” on the river, the soon to be decommissioned wastewater treatment plant on the river, and the “old postal annex” across the street.


The intentionally uninspiring “Three Corners” working name kept 100% focus on the envisioning process.

#2 – Select an Online Engagement Platform

There are many online engagement platforms to choose from. 

A platform is a technology tool with no inherent interaction and no built-in traffic.  It’s kind of like plumbing that enables a service.

Online engagement platforms integrate the best attributes of:

  • a website = a lot of information but no engagement opportunity, other than email 
  • social media = high engagement opportunity, with no information, that devolves to misinformation sharing 

The depth of information & documents you place on the platform educates and gives a deeper understanding of the project. 

The engagement side of the platform, with ability to launch polls, surveys & discussion forums, provides participants a respectful way to collaborate with others & share ideas.

Important to Note:  Websites & social media channels are independent and NOT connected.  There's no mechanism to collect meaningful information & integrated data between the channels.

#3 – Select Name for the Online Engagement Website is the website domain selected for online engagement.  The name is.....

  • Neutral to the project (it doesn't saddle the project with a name at start of a "visioning" process)
  • Easy to remember
  • Inspires action
  • Can be used for future projects & contentious issues


#4 – Visually Brand the Online Engagement Website  

  • Professionally designed logo that’s fresh & memorable (it's not easy)
  • Color palette that’s consistent with the locale
  • Flexible logo where elements can be broken apart to visually signal action items such as polls, surveys, discussions, etc. 

#5 – Require Registration to Engage on Your Project Online

Developing questions for the Registration Form is a delicate balance between eliciting demographic information and encouraging sign-ups and participation.  


#6 – NO Social Media Deployed for the Three Corners Project or

The typical path is to develop Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to drive traffic to a website. 

From a marketing standpoint, we decided to have ZERO social media accounts. 

The ‘no social media’ decision kept the planners, city staff & communication team focused, positive and not seeing or investing energy in anonymous keyboard bullies on social media.


#7 – High Intensity PR Plan

Professional PR and media outreach resulted in 40+ news articles, radio interviews and TV coverage for this project. 

There was so much buzz circling this project in the community . . . .  that all led back to



# 8 – Community Outreach…  In Person Meetings & Tours

Deliberate and professional outreach to community organizations is critical.  Organizations welcome people “in the know” to present and answer questions. 

SpeakUpVeroBeach. quickly became so well known in the community and that led to requests for in-person presentations... to the Taxpayers Association, local Chambers of Commerce, civic groups and neighborhood associations.

Two, two-hour tours of the shuttered power plant & property in January engaged more than 1000+ people.


#9  – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for SpeakUpVeroBeach.

Google was the top referrer to The second top referrer was

SEO is really important and dovetails perfectly with a high intensity PR plan (Tip #7).   People may not remember the website but they remember the gist of the project and search on that.

TIP:  If possible, partner with a high traffic, high ranking local community website that can additionally drive traffic to your engagement website. 

If your online partner ranks high on search, they know SEO.  Otherwise, hire an SEO specialist to target your market and get on top of search results for your project. 


#10 – Be Accountable & Transparent by Putting a Quantcast Tag on Your Domain

Every publicly funded project should be required to have Quantcast tag on their website.  It’s free.

Quantcast direct measures traffic to websites and provides transparency, trust & accountability that everyone can see.

Slide #5 on this page shows what online community engagement traffic looks like for Three Corners  - - -  high engagement when putting marketing, PR & communications behind it and plummeting engagement when not.



Don't let public meeting reactions scare you away from engaging your community.  

Embrace feedback, but with methods that engage a broader cross-section of the community (i.e. busy families and those not inclined to attend or speak at public meetings). 

Be sure to build your communication strategy on solid ground with marketing, branding, PR, SEO and community outreach.

In this case, and as residents ourselves, we wanted to make sure that everyone knew they have a voice.  The DPZ CoDESIGN planners and City of Vero Beach allowed us to introduce a new model of civic engagement that energized the small community of Vero Beach, Florida. is the top site by contributions to ALL of our U.S. clients.  And by quite a margin.” 
   reported from online community engagement platform used on this project, February 7, 2020  


Overview of Community Participation
Three Corners, Vero Beach, Florida

Online @

15,762 Site Visitors

  1,449 Site Registrations 

  1,367 Activated Participants

53,300 Page Views

Online Engagement by Activated Participants

- 682 involved in Shared Ideas section (299 shared ideas, 383 commented)

- 678 Responses to whether power plant should be taken down/saved

- 463 comments about Future of Three Corners

- 263 Responses to Survey

- 153 Responses to Question 1

-   96 Responses to Question 2

-   70 at Facebook Live Session & 3900 Facebook Live Session Views (organized by Larry Reisman at

In Person Engagement
(does not include attendance at community outreach meetings)

1000+ Public Tours of Power Plant & Property, 2 hours on Jan 18 & 25, 2020

  680   Attended DPZ CoDESIGN Public Charrettes 

  300+ people at Duany/DPZ Closing Presentation, Jan 31, 2020


Feedback from the City, Planner & Steering Committee.  

“After 40 years of doing charrettes, this is, by far, the most elaborate.”
Andres Duany, DPZ CoDESIGN
January 31, 2020


“I can’t believe the whole process because everyone has been able to have a voice – it’s extraordinary.”
Vicky Gould, Head of Citizen Steering Committee
January 31, 2020


“This is unprecedented in terms of engagement we’ve had online.  We have far and exceeded our expectations in terms of participation.  In 25 years of my planning experience, I’ve never had a project with this amount of civic participation, and I’ve worked in larger communities.”
Jason Jeffries, City of Vero Beach Planning & Development Director
January 31, 2020


“I am terribly, terribly impressed with the number of people who have given us their opinions.  Because that’s what we asked for.  We asked to go to the people and we needed their opinions and the figures are just over the top.”
Alma Lee Loy, Citizen Steering Committee &
First Lady of Vero Beach  (June 10, 1929 – April 10, 2020)
January 31, 2020


TEAM MEMBERS - Three Corners

City of Vero Beach 
Monte Falls, City Manager
Jason Jeffries, Planning & Development Director
Tammy Bursick, City Clerk

Vero Beach City Council Members
Tony Young, Mayor
Laura Moss, Vice Mayor
Robert Brackett, Council Member
Joseph Graves, Council Member
Rey Neville, Council Member

Citizen Steering Committee Members
Vicky Gould, Chair (Member at Large)
Dr. Richard Baker (appointed by Laura Moss)
Alma Lee Loy (appointed by Joe Graves)
Mike Johansen (appointed by Rey Neville)
Linda Moore (appointed by Robert Brackett)
Mark Tripson (appointed by Tony Young)


Andres Duany, Partner
Xavier Iglesias, Project Manager


Communications Team for DPZ CoDESIGN for Three Corners, Vero Beach

- Irina Woelfle from IWPR Group, LLC responsible for PR 


- Elisabeth (Lil) Miller-Fox in association with was responsible for Marketing & Online Community Engagement at

Special thanks to Suzy Feeney  (March 7, 1953 - February 22, 2020)


Local Community Partner provided pro bono marketing and online community engagement resources for the Three Corners initiative and contributed 50% to the cost of the engagement platform license.  


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100 17th Street
Vero Beach, FL 32960

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