Emerging social and technological trends are driving ridership practices, especially among millennials, resulting in opportunities to strengthen support for public transportation nationally and locally. That was the theme of the panelists at “It’s All About Advocacy: How to Engage Our Stakeholders,” a concurrent session at APTA’s annual Legislative Conference.
The session, moderated by Jennifer Kalczuk, chair of APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee and manager of external affairs, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI, explored the new member-driven advocacy education campaign, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows,” which the committee has been developing and refining for more than a year.
The campaign has two goals, Kalczuk explained: to broaden support and show the value of public transportation in local communities and throughout the country and to create a favorable environment for increased investment in public transportation as MAP-21 expires.
To achieve those goals and strengthen the appeal of public transit as a travel mode of choice among millennials and aging baby boomers, the industry needs to embrace digital technologies, social media, and other initiatives that promote new messages about the industry. The campaign will “make sure that we talk with one voice,” Kalczuk said.
As part of the launch, APTA placed full-page ads in Politico and The Hill, widely read Washington, DC-based publications. (To see other campaign elements, click here.
The ads are designed as templates so local agencies can customize them with their own messages for their own markets. “One of our goals should be to broaden support at the local level,” Kalczuk said.
“The public gets it,” said Aaron Guiterman, vice president, Democracy Data & Communications Advocacy, which conducted national focus groups in advance of the new campaign’s development. People recognize the benefits of public transit even if they don’t personally use it, he said. “We need to engage them not just on core issues but on state and local ones.”
Twitter exposure reaches a much wider audience than conferences, according to Marnie Primmer, chair, National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates, and executive director, Mobility 21. “But it’s important to realize that most of these people are not transit professionals, so you need to simplify your message,” she added.
Driving these message home with a call to action is critical, said Michael Marinaccio, digital director, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “You have to tell people that if they don’t do something about a particular issue, there will be costs.”
Josh Stewart, American Infrastructure Alliance, discussed the importance of social media as a way to amplify traditional media. “Social media allows for coalition-building and your organization to broaden your base,” he said.