It’s safe to say the focus of every conference this year is going to be funding and authorization and the American Public Transportation Association Marketing & Communications Workshop was no different. On top of the traditional marketing or communications-related sessions, there were funding updates, political highlights and the introduction of a marketing campaign that has been in development over the past year, which will launch March 10.
MAP-21 expires on September 30 of this year and the industry is looking for a well-funded, multi-year bill. With mid-term elections this year, it will no doubt be challenging to talk about funding and investment, but for there to be a new bill by this fall, congressional committees would need to have legislative proposals out by the end of the first quarter.
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy gave some background on the national outlook at this time. Due to the mid-term elections, he said there will be a lot of noise over the year. He added, “If you don’t see us panic, you don’t need to panic.” He explained that some of it is just positioning for those candidates and there will be times where it will be tempting to want things they’re not talking about, but he stressed we can’t go against each other. When it comes to getting the support of members of Congress, those that have their stuff together, get to the head of the line.
“Where public transportation goes community grows” is leading the new marketing campaign. The campaign has two goals: To broaden support for and show the value of public transportation in local communities and throughout the country and to create a favorable environment for increased investment.
Extensive research was done and three top priorities came out:
- Modern public transportation is vital to a growing community
- To build a public trust in transportation as a valued partner
- Public transportation is a jobs creator and builds local economic impact
The Rapid External Relations Manager Jennifer Kalczuk, also chair of the APTA Marketing & Communications Committee, explained the campaign. “It is about branding, not a transactional campaign.” It’s public transportation coming together under one brand that’s aspirational, modern, versatile and forward-looking.
The core campaign message is that public transportation powers community growth; it drives economic development and revitalizes neighborhoods. “The economic part tested really well,” Kalczuk stressed.
M&C Committee Vice Chair Morgan Lyons, assistant vice president, communications and community engagement at Dallas Area Rapid Transit, explained how members can get involved at the system level.He also stated, “This one only works if we all work together … we will only succeed with active member participation.”
There is a tool kit on the APTA website under Advocacy and Outreach that you can access after you log in. It includes additional background information, ad creative, examples of participation and additional instructions.
The tool kit was created to ensure a consistent national message comes through. Lyons said, “We’ve connected the pieces so what you’re doing will help us in Washington.”
Part of the idea, he explained, is that while authorization is the biggest thing we talk about, it’s not the only thing; each community has its priorities. “This sets a broader perspective … [it] should create zero conflict with your initiatives." He added, “If we don’t get an authorization bill, nothing else matters.”
Lyons and Kalczuk said the material was made to be customized with local information and data. The key component, they said, is that numbers matter to people. People will be directed to the site publictransportation.org where they can sign up and can be engaged. There will be a progression of advocate engagement through various outlets and the goal is to have 100 active constituents in every congressional district — individuals that are out in their communities organizing petitions, inviting groups to their homes, etc.
The intent is that this grassroots movement will help build a national base of bipartisan support for comprehensive public transportation and infrastructure investment.
It has taken a year to develop and the collaboration members of the Legislative Committee, Marketing & Communications Committee and attendees from the 2013 Marketing & Communications Workshop, they feel the time and effort invested has helped to create a product that speaks to the broadest needs of the members to unify a message that will help ensure federal funding at a time when it is needed most.