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Positioning for the Future through Multilingual Marketing

In recent years, Palm Tran, Palm Beach County's public transportation agency located in West Palm Beach Florida, has seen a tremendous overall rise in ridership, including an increase within the Hispanic and Creole communities. According to a recent onboard survey conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation, it is estimated that, 21 percent of Palm Tran riders are Hispanic and 12 percent speak Creole.

 

For the past decade Palm Tran has recognized the shifting demographics of its ridership by marketing to its customer base in three languages, English, Spanish and Creole. Palm Tran staff designed and implemented a multilingual marketing and outreach campaign in order to meet the needs of our passengers. The U.S. Department of Transportation, under Title VI (2007)1, directs providers of public transportation services to address Limited English Proficient (LEP) customers to provide; informational materials in English and other languages as determined by the ridership population. Palm Tran has taken this initiative a step further by providing outreach materials such as guidebooks, maps, surveys and fare information in both Spanish and Creole, thus addressing the communication barriers to this segment of our customer base. Additionally, Palm Tran has staff capable of providing multilingual assistance to our customers.

 

Two critical components necessary to implement a multilingual marketing plan are (a) research and (b) understanding your target audience. These two components become the foundation of an effective communication plan. It is very important to translate the copy from English to Spanish or Creole properly. It is recommended that you choose a translation agency capable of translating for clarity and accuracy, keeping in mind that the cost is determined by the amount of copy in need of translation. Nearly 85 percent of Palm Tran's printed materials are produced in Spanish and Creole because not all materials need to be translated. The cost incurred is minimal because inserts are used whenever a reprint is done in English.

 

In addition to printed materials in multiple languages, Palm Tran has partnered with other media groups such as television stations to reach our Spanish-speaking customers. Recently, the agency participated with Palm Beach County to promote participation in the most recent census through the use of television commercials, interior and exterior bus signs and bus passes. The campaign was centered on a multilingual approach.

 

In order to be successful in business, including the public transit field, it requires that the agency recognizes who their customers are and knows how to focus on their needs. The cornerstone of such a success story is an effective public communication and marketing plan. Palm Tran has endeavored to stay in front of legislative requirements and has strived to do the right thing; specifically with our multilingual communication plan.

 

For further information pertaining to the Department of Transportation, Title VI, Limited English Proficient (LEP) visit www.lep.gov and www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/lowlim/.

 

Liliane M. Agee-Finke is the marketing and community affairs manager for Palm Tran, West Palm Beach Florida.

 

1 U.S. Department of Transportation (2007). Title VI-Dependent guidelines for Federal Transit Administration recipients. Circular FTA C 4702.1A

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