Mediamarkt Promo, Case study BUILDING BRIDGES by Whyte Corporate Affairs

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Industry Electronic Devices & Home Appliances, Retail, Distribution & Rental companies
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market Belgium
Agency Whyte Corporate Affairs
Released August 2011

Credits & Description

Category: Public Affairs
Product/Service: MEDIA MARKT
Partner: Joris Bulteel (Whyte Corporate Affairs)
Partner: Eveline De Ridder (Whyte Corporate Affairs)
Senior Advisor: Jan Pszeniczko (Whyte Corporate Affairs)
Jr Consultant: Laura Moerman (Whyte Corporate Affairs)
Media placement: Public Affairs - NA - August 2011

Summary of the Campaign
After 10 years of rapid expansion, Media Markt started experiencing problems with opening new stores in Belgium, due to a series of issues like urban planning, transport and a ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome. One of their new stores became subject of a fierce political conflict and legal battlefield. 70 jobs, a considerable investment, and Media Markt's further expansion were at stake!

Our agency proposed to find a solution through public affairs. As it was extremely likely that the permit of the store would be cancelled, our objective was to find political support for a new permit, by means of a constructive dialogue rather than a legal fight.

Our strategy:

Rather than adding more noise, we showed empathy and listened to the various stakeholders first, resulting in an altered perception and attitude.
We shifted from emotions to facts and figures by involving all stakeholders in a learning process, filtering out faulty perceptions and looking for joint solutions.
The public affairs consultants received the mandate to take the lead over the whole process, supported by Media Markt's management and legal advisors. This was a prerequisite to changing the dynamics of the process and to succeed.

Within 6 months time, a political consensus was built up. When the initial permit was cancelled, a new permit was granted, saving Media Markt's investment and 70 jobs. Thanks to this 'best practice', Media Markt decided to make Public Affairs part of its further expansion strategy, with an important role for our agency.

The Situation
This assignment was carried out for Media Markt Saturn Belgium and related to one of their new stores. After 10 years of rapid expansion, this popular retailer started experiencing problems with opening new stores, due to a series of issues like urban planning, transport and the 'not in my backyard syndrome.

The permits for a new store were granted by the municipality, but the neighboring municipality and other stakeholders did not agree, resulting in a legal battlefield which was likely to result in a cancellation of the permits, putting 70 jobs, a considerable investment and further expansion at stake.

The Goal
The objective was to gain political support for a new permit against the backdrop of a fierce legal conflict. We had to build up goodwill towards Media Markt, clarify a range of perceptions and issues, and find consensus amongst a broad range of stakeholders: municipalities, regional government & administration, federal government, public transport and the ‘interministerial committee’, assembling all decision-makers from various competence levels. Most of these stakeholders were new to Media Markt.

From a conflict oriented legal case, we had to shift towards a solution oriented, intelligence driven public affairs approach, requiring a change in attitude and way of working.

The Strategy
Listen, Learn and Lead.

Taking into account the tensed atmosphere and biased perceptions, we decided to build up goodwill by listening first. This came as a surprise and was much appreciated by stakeholders, resulting in a gradually changing attitude. First, we set up bilateral contacts with stakeholders; in a second phase, we organised 2 ‘plenary meetings’ for all stakeholders.

During the plenary meetings, complemented with ongoing ‘shuttle diplomacy’, all stakeholders got to know the facts and figures (leveraging independent research), prioritise issues, and eliminate faulty perceptions. This allowed to shift from an emotionally driven conflict to a more fact based, solution oriented dialogue.

The Public Affairs consultants built up the credibility and trust allowing them to take the lead, both at Client side (management, legal advisors) and with Stakeholders (trusted point of contact for all stakeholders), shifting from a purely legal to a public affairs approach.

08/2011: intelligence gathering and strategy development

09/2011: press launch’ omplemented with direct stakeholder communication: “your concerns are taken into consideration.”

09-10/2011: media attention on the opening and on the political conflict regarding the permit is used as an opportunity to start up bilateral contacts with all stakeholders, generating further insights in the respective perceptions and concerns, and creating goodwill and personal relationships.

10-11/2011: plenary meetings to build bridges between the respective stakeholders, their agendas and Media Market; ongoing ‘shuttle diplomacy’ between all stakeholders, working towards a win-win solution.

01/2012: a gentlemen’s agreement is drafted and informally approved by the key opponent of the project.

02/2012: initial permit cancelled by Council of State; as planned, political decision-makers immediately approve new permit based on ‘our deal’.

Ongoing media communication: message is conveyed that Media Markt understands the respective concerns and welcomes a dialogue; calming things down, avoiding further escalation of the conflict.

Documented Results
Political Support: The Interministerial Committee of 5 March approved a new permit for the store, putting an end to the legal battlefield.

The store, 70 jobs and an investment were safeguarded.

Strengthened reputation with consumers, employees and other stakeholders.

Further expansion safeguarded: to avoid stores closing down, we avoided a precedent inspiring other stakeholders to protest against other stores.

Last but not least: a new public affairs approach has been developed in support of Media Markt’s further expansion. This best practice was leveraged by the agency to present Media Markt a proposal on a comprehensive Public Affairs strategy called ‘Licence to Operate’. On 29 March, the agency was commissionned to support ‘Media Markt Saturn Belgium’ in its further expansion strategy, leading to a considerable amount of work and giving public affairs a prominent role in the company’s strategy.