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Gettysburg College: Keeping a respected institution out of the fray.

CHALLENGE: In 2005, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania faced a dilemma: Many faculty and community members were dead set against a proposed casino being built adjacent to the town’s historic battlefield. But the casino’s developer was none other than the college’s biggest longtime donor - and a board member. Faculty was demanding that the college take a stand against the casino because of the damage they believed a casino would do to the educational atmosphere in Gettysburg. But the college did not want to publicly oppose their long-time board member.

STRATEGY: Morris, who had been handling public relations work for the college’s new performing arts theater, was called in as part of the team to provide strategy to the college’s senior management. In a series of meetings, they brought the group to consensus on the college’s role as a forum for discussion, not an entity that takes positions on non-educational issues. Once the senior team was comfortable with this, a communications plan and talking points were provided. The first step was to work with the leading faculty members to explain the college’s position and offer the college as a location for a facilitated panel discussion. While recommending against a proactive media release, Morris made sure the team had talking points if the media called.

RESULTS: Both the faculty and the board were satisfied with the college’s position, and the college was never brought into the media discussion of the issue.


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