By David Hubbard
The hefty $25,000 donation from the Tennessee Motor Coach Association and the $10,000 North Carolina operators put together should send a strong signal that this industry is starved for attention and anxious for the exposure the Motorcoach Council promises to provide.
This ball has been up in the air for long time, while the more savvy operators have continued to remind the industry any identity crisis is basically self inflicted through years of not marketing and promoting its purpose and worth to the world. If necessity is the mother of invention, the Motorcoach Council formed when this point became most apparent.
Nonetheless, the Motorcoach Council initiatives require extensive funding, and will certainly not yield all the desired results overnight. After all, the Cruise Lines International Association labored two years to launch its national campaign of 1997 to stimulate travelers reluctant to board ships. The time is ripe, but the council cannot do it all. While the council purports the necessity of banding together to educate the traveling public on the advantages and conveniences of motorcoach transportation, the plan cannot succeed without the participation from independent operators in local markets.
Council chairman Todd Holland, Ramblin Express, Denver, CO, says the funds generated through the Founding Partners Program will go a long way to augment any individual investments operators are making to market and promote their business. He says the Motorcoach Council exists in part to supplement and fortify, not substitute or replace any individual effort.
With that in mind, it is safe to say motorcoach operators as a general lot are due for a crash course in basic public and media relations.
They could not have any better example to follow than what Founding Partner Callen Hotard, president of Hotard Coaches and Calco Travel, is doing throughout Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA. His work with a variety of local media is helping the entire industry as much as his own businesses.
During the Presidential Inauguration in January, Hotard seized the day and arranged for a television commentator and cameraman to travel onboard one his 18 chartered coaches and file live satellite feeds for CBS in Baton Rouge throughout the trip.
“They interviewed the passengers about the motorcoach experience,” says Hotard. “They talked in very generic terms and did not necessarily focus on our company. Their reports touched on the benefits, the comfort and special amenities, and how everyone could travel and spend time together.”
For several years Hotard has consistently advertised his companies through network and cable television, as well as outdoor billboards and direct mail, but says this year he is elevating his media exposure significantly. He is currently producing a three-minute impact video his sales team will send out with every quote to familiarize customers with the products and services.
Hotard says only now has he begun to take advantage of the many public relations opportunities that exist.
“We are doing a lot more to differentiate and promote what we have to offer,” says Hotard. “We just recently hired a marketing firm to help us do a better job in that area.”
At a recent Motorcoach Council Founding Partners meeting, Hotard suggested a process to seamlessly connect the council initiative and campaign with the marketing efforts of individual companies at the local level.
“If the council could pass the messages to the member companies, it would give individual operators the opportunity to incorporate the national theme into their local placements,” says Hotard. “I think this would give operators something to go on, and help reflect the unity of the motorcoach industry, and still allow them to customize the message to meld with their own good ideas to interest new passengers in the areas they know and understand.”
With the available tools, independent motorcoach companies can certainly move the process along by engaging in proactive public relations of their own to educate the traveling public about the advantages and conveniences of motorcoach transportation.