Building a PR Bridge

Building a PR Bridge

Image courtesy of the state of Minnesota

When you build a bridge in an area considered to be protected by an act of Congress, it takes another act of Congress to begin the process. But sometimes that’s necessary when the existing one is more than 80-years-old and could fail in the not too distant future. If the new bridge isn’t in place, people would have a very difficult time getting from point A to point B for several years. Even though point A may not be growing as they thought it would or have as many people there anymore, still stranding them shouldn’t be a viable alternative.

So they are building the St. Croix Bridge in Minnesota under the prevue of the State Highway Department. Former Vice President Mondale sponsored the bill passed in support of Wild and Scenic status for rivers such as the St. Croix when he was a Senator. But though he feels the new bridge is a violation of the public trust, you can almost hear his shoulders shrugging in a statement he made last year, “It’s a tough fight when you go against what the highway department wants.”

Enlist the Help of Supporters

Because the building of this bridge started with mixed feelings from the locals and many not so local, a $2 million PR campaign is underway to help transition people’s concerns on the matter. The independent PR firm, Himle Rapp & Co. is helping the state agencies in those efforts. Almost every day social media updates are made and show progress on the bridge. They also call for letters to the editor from bridge “ambassadors” and asked for suggestions on how to promote the bridge.

From such a suggestion, there are now summertime cruises on the river for passengers to check out the bridge up close. They hear from one of the engineers of the bridge over the speaker system and can take lots of pictures … are even encouraged to take selfies with the partial bridge looming in the background to show they were a part of history in the making to future children or grandchildren.

Outside the Box PR

The bridge building project is now included in Minnesota’s school curriculum – wow, if that isn’t top-notch PR, than what is?

They aren’t just building a bridge, they are building a bridge to gain public support, even from the initial skeptics and naysayers concerned about cost, environmental impact, and the scale of such a project.

St. Croix’s bridge is not alone either, on the Hudson River in New York, there is a $4 billion bridge (Tappan Zee) being built. Their PR includes a magazine to celebrate the Tappan Zee – so far, there are eight downloadable issues created beginning in 2012.

When construction started on the St. Croix, there was a lot of media attention. Now, not so much – so MnDOT’s information people and Himle Rapp & Co. work together to offer frequent updates through social media, or any other means they can.

So, have Minnesota and Wisconsin got a bridge to sell to you – Yes, at least the concept and construction of one, and they invite you to come along for the ride with them – on social media or a summer river cruise. Your choice.

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