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#PR: How Not to Generate Good PR
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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In recent weeks the media has been reporting on efforts by the Princeton, NJ–based Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) to bulldoze and build on land that it acquired but is also actually an extremely historic piece of ground. It seems the Institute (yes, the very same place where Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein once taught), in its need to build more faculty housing and student housing, has ignored the historical nature of the property on which it wants to build as well as the fact that some of the same property may indeed be within a wetland. All this is despite an appeal in the NJ state courts to halt the development project, citing both the wetlands and the historical nature of the parcel in question. Even the NJ State Legislature has become involved in the controversy.

If the Institute for Advanced Studies wanted to generate good PR, this is surely not the way to go about doing so!

As it turns out, this same parcel of land over which the development is being carried out is the same piece of land over which General George Washington helped lead a successful counter-attack during the pivotal Battle of Princeton on January 2, 1777 against the British during the Revolutionary War. For those of you who may not be aware of what this all is, I invite you to go to the Civil War Trust's “Campaign 1776” for more information (click here). The Civil War Trust had initially, once it became aware of efforts by IAS to construct housing on the parcel, offered to pay IAS $3.5 million for the land so it could be preserved and added to the Princeton Battlefield State Park. Just recently, via PR Newswire, Campaign 1776 recently posted on a video billboard in Times Square, NY that “Site of George Washington's famous charge at Princeton is being bulldozed for faculty housing” and a link to PR Newswire for more of the story. This means that millions of people potentially will now be aware of what may, in fact, be an illegal move by the IAS…even though they do own the parcel in question.

Ouch for the Institute of Advanced Studies! NOT a good way to generate positive flack by any means! Let me know what you think!


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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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