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(L to R): NLA executive director Philip Jagiela, NLA attorney Manesh Rath, NLA President Gary Buffo, NLA board director Scott Solombrino and NLA lobbyist Gregory McDonald participate in a TNC State of the Industry Panel on Oct. 19, 2014 at the opening of LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J. Photo by Tim Crowley/LCT
MARLTON, N.J. — The National Limousine Association is about to ink a major deal with the Evins public relations and branding firm for a sweeping media and publicity strategy designed to counter the aggressive marketing by Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and advance limousine operators as the legal and legitimate sources of safe, reliable and quality chauffeured transportation.
The landmark, unprecedented move for the 30-year-old trade association would place its positions into the mainstream media and provide an organized, consistent flow of industry information across the vast multi-media spectrum, including cable TV news channels, newspapers, websites, social media and public relations/press release outlets. Evins, based in New York, also would designate official NLA spokespeople to present a unified public message.
The contract, deemed by the NLA as a done deal, still must be formally signed. The estimated $400,000 annual contract would be funded from the NLA’s $1.2 million reserve fund. The NLA, which now has 2,000-plus members, projects that part of the cost would be offset with an increase in membership dues revenue as limousine operators see more visible, tangible value to NLA membership. Contract Goals
NLA President Gary Buffo hosts the opening session of LCT-NLA Show East at Caesars Atlantic City, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. Photo by LCT
NLA board directors unanimously approved the contact during their Oct. 18 quarterly board meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., just before the start of LCT-NLA Show East. At an NLA-hosted opening panel discussion the next day, NLA President Gary Buffo announced the contract to attendees.
“We narrowed down the P.R. firms to one that we felt understood the direction we have to take,” Buffo said. “They were more furious than we were about what is happening in our market. This firm will take us to the level we need to go to protect our industry and give consumers the facts behind the cars they are getting into.”
“We have to be ready,” he added. “The best thing TNCs have done is make consumers realize they don’t need a car.”
The NLA’s public relations contract follows the release of its six-page position paper on TNCs on Aug. 20. With a P.R. firm, the NLA will push positions that extend beyond the fairness argument being circulated throughout the industry, which asserts TNCs should either be regulated like limousine companies or limousine companies should be de-regulated to the level of TNCs.
“Our argument is that the rules you have to comply with are there for good reasons,” said Manesh Rath, a trial and appellate attorney with the Washington, D.C. law firm Keller & Heckman, who is the NLA’s legal counsel. “The ‘level playing field’ is not the most sympathetic argument. But when [focusing on] the reasons for rules as to why, the answer to the next question becomes self-evident: Why aren’t TNCs being held up to the same rigorous process? This is a factual recitation, a message that has to be a driving force behind all initiatives of the association.”
According to the Oct. 18 presentation by Evins, the media/public relations program would cover five primary goals:
- Position the NLA as the authority and voice for chauffeured transportation, in regards to the rise of Transportation Network Companies/on-demand car services, and in general.
- Develop, implement and promote NLA’s official position and strategy regarding TNCs/on-demand car services.
- Increase conversation and preference among consumers and influencers for chauffeured transportation.
- Develop and implement a strategic media and digital/ social media program, underscoring the NLA’s role and responsibility to promote and protect the interests of chauffeured transportation.
- Cultivate relationships for NLA with appropriate influencer media in order to garner impactful media coverage.
In addition to Buffo and Rath, the Oct. 19 panel during which the contract was announced included NLA board director and Dav El/BostonCoach CEO Scott Solombrino, NLA lobbyist Gregory J. McDonald of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., and NLA executive director Philip Jagiela.