Washington's Haft family, in a dramatic tactical change, yesterday went public to win support for its $6 billion bid for Dayton Hudson Corp., the nation's sixth-largest department-store operator.

The normally secretive Robert Haft went to Dayton Hudson's hometown of Minneapolis to meet with newspaper editors and reporters and to visit stores and employes to demonstrate that his family was serious in its takeover bid, made late last week.

"We're reaching out to the community, the employes and to the management because we're interested in acquiring the company," Haft, who with his father, Herbert Haft, heads Dart Group Corp., said in a telephone interview. "We're hoping this will be the beginning of a dialogue with the community and the management to make a better Dayton Hudson."

In the Hafts' previous takeover attempts -- all unsuccessful -- the family has been accused of seeking only profits and not the companies themselves. Among the reasons cited by the financial community have been the Hafts' repeated reluctance to disclose their reasons for the takeover and their plans for the company should they win it.

"We had been given advice in the past that it is not appropriate to communicate; we think it was wrong advice," Haft said yesterday. "We're taking a different approach because it is a public matter between two public companies and should be open to the public."

{The Minneapolis Star and Tribune reported that Haft said Dayton Hudson's management has let operations slip. But he conceded that Target and the Dayton Hudson Department Store Co. were excellent operations and said senior Dayton Hudson executives would be asked to stay on.

{Haft said Dart could improve Dayton Hudson's profitability with better merchandising and marketing at its California-based Mervyn's discount department stores. He also criticized Dayton Hudson's management for letting profits at B. Dalton Bookseller dwindle from 1983 levels before selling it in late 1986. At the same time, sales and earnings grew at Crown Books, Haft said.

{"This thing is slowly going downhill," he claimed of Dayton Hudson's retail strategies. "The company has spent $3 billion (in expansion and remodeling) since 1982 and they've gotten virtually nothing from it."

{Haft also pledged to continue Dayton Hudson's generations-old tradition of philanthropy and community involvement, but declined to quantify any commitment or the extent to which Dart practices community giving.}

The Hafts have also included a novel promise in their takeover bid, pledging any stock profits they may realize from the takeover to Minnesota charities if Dayton-Hudson shareholders refuse to accept the Hafts' bid.

"We have such confidence in our bid that we are willing to donate to charity any gains," said Haft.

Such pledges were not included in the Hafts' earlier bids for Safeway Stores Inc., the nation's largest supermarket chain, and for Supermarkets General Corp.

By pledging donations to state charities and taking its case to the public, the Haft family is borrowing some tips from Dayton Hudson itself. One of the state's largest employers, the retailer is highly regarded as a good corporate citizen, thanks in large part to its annual charitable contributions that equal 5 percent of the company's pretax profits.

As a result, Minnesota's state legislature rushed to Dayton Hudson's aid last June, just days after the Hafts first expressed their interest in Dayton Hudson. In an emergency session, the legislature overwhelming passed an antitakeover law that would make it harder for any corporate raider to buy a Minnesota company in a hostile takeover. The law does not apply to friendly takeovers, which the Hafts are now trying to achieve.

At meetings yesterday, Haft "made some points, but nobody was converted at one meeting," one attendee noted.

Haft said that he had no plans to meet with Dayton Hudson officials while he was in Minneapolis. "We haven't set up any meetings or had any contact at this point."

"He's only here to meet with the media; he's too busy seeing them," said a Dayton Hudson official when asked whether a meeting between the two sides was in the offing.

Dayton Hudson officials also denied reports, published yesterday, that the chain had approached Citibank about financing a possible restructuring of the company. "We deny that," said Ann Barkelew, vice president for corporate public relations. Dayton Hudson's stock fell 75 cents yesterday to close at $57.25 on a day when most retail stocks also fell.

Haft's visit was not totally unprofitable for Dayton Hudson. At one of the department stores, he purchased a Coca-Cola jogging suit for his infant son -- a transaction that was, of course, recorded by reporters.