[UPDATED w/more info 9/28/14; 2:10 p.m. PT/5:10 p.m. ET]
One of the most insightful tips in taking on TNCs mentioned at the Greater California Livery Association Expo on Sept. 23 relates to a basic form of sharing information: Telling a good story.
While appearing on a TNC panel, GCLA lobbyist Gregg Cook explained how politicians, like most people, respond emotionally to circumstances, and often make decisions based on sentiment.
He's right. All humans are like that; we like to think we’re always logical, but as social animals, emotions factor into our actions and motives.
That was the case in the fatal limousine fire May 4, 2013 that resulted in onerous and impractical new manufacturing rules for stretch limousines in California, a measure that the industry will seek to get repealed in 2015. In the lead up to that legislation, politicians relied on sentiment, Cook said.
But that can work the other way, too, as limousine company owners and operators campaign for regulatory parity with Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). “The Legislature reacts to public sentiment,” Cook told attendees at the Expo, held in Costa Mesa. “They won’t know about you unless you share your sentiments with them.”
Sentiments are often rooted in stories, such as anecdotes, incidents, vignettes and real-life examples. Stories are more memorable to the human brain than official statements and recitations of statistics and facts. We all remember a good joke or an outrageous tale more than a list of do’s and don’ts. A San Francisco cab driver who can’t support his family is a much more powerful story than a report on how the taxicab industry in that city has contracted by 65%. You must humanize and dramatize the people behind the numbers.
And therein emerge key strategies for limousine operators:
- Tittle-tattle & tell: Start sharing examples of TNC violations and service mistakes in your local areas. Put it on social media, start a blog, and make any accounts of TNC driver criminal behavior, accidents, surge pricing rip-offs, regulatory avoidance, etc. go viral. Talk about it with whoever will listen. Tell some good stories. Everyone can tap into the power of social media and online information sharing. Imagine if thousands of limo operators did this, locally and nationally. Here is an example of a blog; in fact, it's from disgruntled Uber drivers: Uber Driver Diaries. And then there's the Taxi Limousine Para-transit Association’s Who’s Driving You website and blog. The NLA, GCLA and every association can do this, too, creating a clearinghouse for "TNC tales."
- Meet, greet & repeat: Visit with your local law enforcement agencies to raise public safety awareness or cooperate on public service announcements (PSAs). After an Uber driver was arrested in Orlando this week for allegedly groping a female passenger, the Orlando Police Department warned the public to avoid TNCs because of concerns over inconsistent driver background checks. That’s a memorable story. Those type of public awareness messages about TNCs sink in deeper with the public than any competitive advertising. Even if nothing has happened (so far) in your town, city or county, start engaging the community policing and service divisions of your local law enforcement agencies.
- Show up, speak out & say it: Speak up at public government forums, to the media, and at the offices of local government leaders and state legislators. Shoot simple videos of your comments and “stories,” or those of industry colleagues, and then post them on YouTube and the Internet. An excellent opportunity is coming on Oct. 23 in Torrance, Calif., where a Public Participation Hearing will be held by the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates limousines in that state. CPUC officials plan to hear testimony on real-world experiences (stories?) with TNCs, covering eight different areas. The hearing will be held at the Torrance Civic Center on Thursday, Oct. 23 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Administrative Law Judge and Commissioner can learn from operators' experiences as a step toward restoring fairness in the marketplace.
There you have it; three simple strategies. Easy as 1-2-3, and everyone can do them: Tittle-tattle & tell; Meet, greet & repeat; Show up, speak out & say it.
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