You Count!

By now you’ve all filled out and returned your census forms … or at least you should have … and one agency helping spread that message of its importance was Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, Fla. At APTA’s Marketing Workshop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Palm Tran’s Manager for Marketing Lili Finke shared information with other agencies on how it tried a new tactic: printing a marketing message on the back of Palm Tran’s fare passes.

“We had public affairs come up to us and they were doing a huge campaign on promoting the census and they said, ‘We would like to know what we can do to put some interior and exterior signs on your buses,’” says Finke. “We were like, great!"

A Program Evolves

“So we partnered with them on that and then it got bigger as we went on,” She says. She explains that there was interior and exterior signage, a 60-second commercial spot and the printing on the back of the fare passes.

Finke says Palm Tran rolled everything out with a week and a half in between, so the message kept on coming out, with the last leg of the campaign being the TV commercials.

“We got some volunteers, we put it together and there it goes, it’s a great spot,” Finke says of the video. “I have a trade agreement with Fox television station so this basically ran for free trade. Fox 29 advertises on our buses and we’re running that 60-second spot.”

The bus advertisements and commercials were done in three languages — English, Spanish and Creole — like most of Palm Tran’s material. “That’s very important to us,” Finke says. “I did this in three languages with exception of the pass because the pass just doesn’t have a lot of room.”

"What it was, it was, ‘You Count,’” says Finke, explaining what was printed on the fare passes. “We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got these passes generated out of the farebox, let’s put a message on the passes.’

“We did a half a million of them and it was the first time that we had done this. It was a pilot project to put a message behind our passes.” She reiterates, “The passes are generated out of the farebox and when you turn it over, instead of having our logo, it’s about the census. It’s one quick census message that ‘You Count’ so they fill out the census form.”

Executive Director Chuck Cohen emphasizes, “The other thing this opens up is getting some additional advertising revenue for us. We had talked about doing this for some time and this seemed the perfect opportunity to try it.” He adds, “I wouldn’t want to be doing that for a long-term program, but certainly as a marketing concept, short-term program; we get the message out and do it.

“Maybe something we could even team with the vendor and they provide for a free ride or something else in exchange, but it opens up a lot of doors that we’ve only been talking about now. We see where we may be going.”

Finke also emphasizes how this project shows the strong partnership in the county and has put the message out in the community. “Everywhere you look on the road, we have a strong message on the exterior of our bus; they’re everywhere.”

“The nice part fpr us or for the census or the county, it helps to reach an audience that they normally have trouble reaching, which is some of the people that are using the bus,” Cohen says. He stresses, “It’s a win-win for everybody that way.”

“We have really pushed it,” Finke says. “It has been getting wonderful responses; people are paying attention to the passes.”

Sharing Success

Not only are its riders paying attention, several agencies have contacted Finke since she talked about what they were doing at the marketing workshop. “It’s different, it’s exciting,” she says of the program. “They wanted to see how we did this and wanted to see our campaign."

For others considering giving this a try, Finke and Cohen encourage it. “It worked out great,” Finke says. “The more we were doing this the more ideas we were getting and there were no obstacles what so ever.

“The only cost that we had was to print the passes, everything else was basically done on a trade and it’s worked beautifully.”

She says the agency simply placed the order in at the printer to print on the back of its passes, handed them off to the maintenance department and maintenance put them in the farebox.

And after doing this, it not only plans on potential revenue generation, but more partnering with the county, as well. Promoting a positive message for the county and reaching an audience the county might not normally reach creates a team effort it wants to continue to promote.

Regarding the census partnership, Finke says, “It helps the county, it helps us, it’s been a great message to be partnering with them. This is a very strong partnership group.”