Since its arrival, ridesharing service Uber has been engaged in a bitter turf war and public relations battle with a myriad of taxi companies, associations and drivers. Uber presents itself as a disruptive new service that is transforming the way “the world moves” through the use of engaging technology, while the taxi industry protects their status quo and argues that Uber isn’t playing by the rules and is destroying their livelihoods.
Both sides have experienced victories, but it’s Uber that seems to have the upper hand. Though the smaller taxi companies and associations have less PR/marketing resources than Uber, they have also committed strategic blunders, and – from my perspective – haven’t utilized best practices and new marketing strategies.
What Can Advocates And Activists in The Non-profit Sector Learn From the Uber/Taxi Cab PR Battlefield
Advocates and activists in the non-profit sector can learn a lot from the taxi industry’s strategic slips.
Adopt a compelling narrative that will resonate with the public
Ask anyone why they don’t use Uber and they will tell you one of two things: 1) that they’re uncomfortable with new technology; and/or 2) that Uber is unsafe.
Taxi companies should be shouting “Uber is not safe!” from the mountaintops, as I believe this issue will resonate most with their target audience. However, a lot of the press has been about the “unfair playing field” or the financial harm Uber’s introduction has caused to taxi drivers (like this PBS story). Though this narrative may be compelling to taxi drivers and their families, it doesn’t work with a large number of consumers who are motivated by their wallets and security.
Key takeaway: You should build your narrative on your target audience’s wants, needs and concerns. This is essential if you want your public relations strategy to succeed. If you don’t know your audience’s concerns, send out a survey and ask them.
Go beyond the political and legal debate
In many jurisdictions, the taxi industry has spent much of its time fighting Uber in the courts or through the lobbying/ support of politicians like Jim Karygiannis in Toronto and Bill de Blasio in New York. Uber is also playing the political lobbying game.
Fighting Uber politically and legally is a good strategy for the taxi companies. However, this should be complemented with strong community outreach, which may include the hosting of reputation-building events.
Key takeaway: You should make community outreach a pillar of your public relations strategy. Winning favour with the public, after all, will ultimately influence politicians as well as the legal system in the longer term.
Be helpful to your audience, not disruptive
From Mexico City to Paris, taxi drivers have initiated disruptive and sometimes violent anti-Uber protests. In contrast, Uber offers its customers free ice cream.
Taxi driver demonstrations, though effective in the short term, will not help their cause in the long run as they upset the lives of the people they should be helping, the general public (their target audience).
Key takeaway: To be an effective advocate, you should aim to educate, inform and inspire your target audience to change their behaviour. Avoid being disruptive and/or accusatory.
Utilize content marketing for a better return on investment
Let’s face it: large corporations like Uber have millions of dollars to burn on expensive TV and newspaper ads. As individual units, the assorted taxi companies and associations can’t compete with the $40-billion monetary might of Uber, which was put on full display recently in New York City.
The taxi industry could, however, benefit from digital-based content marketing to better connect with the public. For those who are unfamiliar, content marketing “pulls” people with online content – including blog posts, news releases, videos, social, etc. As opposed to push-based advertising, content marketing is relatively cheap and produces a good return on investment.
Key takeaway: All advocates and activists would benefit from content marketing. If you’re in the advocacy business, I strongly recommend you start creating relevant, beneficial and searchable online content to attract people to your cause. Check out these quick and easy ways to generate website content.
Advocates and activists in the non-profit sector can learn a lot from the Uber-Cabby PR battle. Primarily, you should adopt a PR strategy that resonates with your target audience. Secondly, when doing battle with larger, well-financed organizations, you need to adopt smarter strategies and tactics that deliver a big return on investment, like content marketing. With a smart and cost-effective outreach effort, you can conquer the behemoths.
Non-profit organization Mercy For Animals’ undercover video of cruelty on an Idaho dairy farm is a great example of a smart and cost-effective public relations campaign. The campaign was so effective at informing – not disrupting – the public that a gag law was passed in the state.
Did you find this article helpful? What strategies do you employ when combating a bigger opponent?