By Sallie L. Hilvers
Everyone has a story and hundreds of Cincinnati Metro riders shared theirs. This summer we sponsored a unique contest to allow our riders to tell their stories of how public transportation has made a difference in their lives.
Leveraging the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) advocacy campaign Public Transportation Takes Us There, this initiative included advertising, grass roots marketing and public relations efforts, in addition to the contest.
Entries in video and written format ranged from narratives about growing up and family traditions, as well as poems, songs and raps. We selected five finalists from both the written entries and the videos and posted them on the Metro website, www.go-metro.com.
Metro riders cast their votes for the various entries before we announced the top entries in early September. Each winner received a year of free rides and will star in a future Metro advertising campaign.
Sometimes if you snooze, you don’t lose
In his video entry filmed at the Taste of Cincinnati, Travis Theiss, Hamilton, OH, humorously described how he uses Metro as a chance to catch up on sleep. He says Metro provides him with easy access to work and gives him time to take a quick nap during his commute.
“If you see me on the bus,” Theiss says in his video, “wake me up before I miss my stop.”
Told he had won the contest, Theiss reacted with surprise.
“I just gave it a shot and thought it would hopefully entertain people,” he says. “I was glad I could share my feelings that Metro is a great option for transportation.”
Knitting bus blankets during commute
In her written entry Teresa Roush describes her commute five days a week on the Rt. 71X from Kings Island Theme Park in Mason, OH to downtown Cincinnati and back. She uses her time wisely to knit colorful afghans or what she calls “bus blankets.” In the 14 months she has knitted during her commute, she has completed seven blankets, which she has donated to a children’s charity in Clinton County.
“Metro has not only improved my quality of life because I do not have to deal with the traffic on I-71, Roush wrote, “but it has also helped to bring a smile to the children who have received the bus blankets.”
Active senior uses Metro to give back
In August, Cincinnati Metro presented a third and very special award to 96-year-old William “Mr. Bill” Kenny. Mr. Bill’s written story described how he used Metro to get to and from the Over-The-Rhine soup kitchen, where he volunteers five days a week. Mr. Bill received a year of free rides to help him continue serving the community.
“When I retired in 1975, I realized it wasn’t healthy to sit down,” he wrote. “It just made me stiff. Thanks to Metro, I was able to keep busy. I began my bus ride each day to the soup kitchen. It was important for me to give back to the community. I attribute my quality of life to the Good Lord and to the guests and staff at the soup kitchen.”
Buses amplify the message
Last year, Metro wrapped its new articulated buses with the message “Public Transportation Takes Us There” to present the campaign themes. Bus shelter advertising reflecting the same message, as did radio, television and online ads which followed this past spring.
“Our multi-media campaign generated a lot of awareness of the benefits of public transportation among riders and non-riders,” says Metro Marketing Director Dave Etienne. “It helped drive the many entries in the Tell Us Your Story contest. With news releases, pitches to media and social media efforts, Metro’s public relations efforts served to promote the contest and other system-wide ‘Public Transportation Takes Us There’ initiatives.”
Metro promoted the contest and activities related to the campaign through social media. Primarily Facebook and Twitter. Our Facebook page gained over 200 fans and Twitter account gained over 400 followers in 2010.
Reaching the Community
Metro promoted its efforts at more than 20 community events throughout the summer, which included story times at libraries and hosted events at park & rides. Metro representatives gave away prizes to engage the community in a dialogue on the benefits of transit. These efforts boosted the number of contest entries and generated community awareness.
Metro created an annual report to the community with the “Public Transportation Takes Us There” theme to inform the community of the efforts and steps Metro has taken in the past year. Additionally, we worked with our board chair, Melody Sawyer Richardson, to create an e-mail blast campaign to reach thousands of constituents with key messages during the summer.
In August, Metro unveiled three new hybrid buses, purchased with federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While highlighting the green aspects of these new vehicles, Metro was able to demonstrate the environmental message of the campaign.
The summer contest and promotion may be complete, but we are confident our riders will continue to share their positive stories and experiences. BR
Sallie L. Hilvers serves as Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA). Cincinnati Metro is a non-profit, tax-funded public service of SORTA, providing about 19 million rides per year.