The story has become a regular staple in local newspapers and TV newscasts: A group of schoolchildren riding to lunch in a limo as a reward for good grades.
For operators, this growing client niche can reap marketing rewards, boost a positive community profile, and help schools promote good character and academics. Not to mention the coverage in local media. As an industry, we have a unique product and service that can easily be used to motivate students from all walks of life. A ride in a limousine is a goal that most kids would strive toward. The attention to your involvement will not be lost on all the parents (i.e. potential customers) in your community. Children who “talk up” a ride in your limo to parents can be the best form of consumer persuasion.
It is important that you notify the media for coverage of your limo run. Most local media love pursuing human interest stories about children and schools, since they want parents as readers and viewers. Make sure you urge school officials to contact the media on their own since the added tip coming from them adds clout to your pitch. Since most adults have children, being associated with your local educational system guarantees some form of positive exposure. Your acts of kindness will endear you to the same parents who may favor your company over others simply based on the positive name recognition. To ensure you score a human interest story with the local media, make sure your efforts are recognized by providing a concise press release with the basic “Ws” and “H.”
• Who: What school are you serving and how many students have a chance to earn a ride in a limousine? If it is the entire school, report how many children attend. If it is only sixth graders, report the number of sixth graders.
• What: What exactly are you doing? Are you taking the kids to a pizza parlor? Are you just taking them on a short ride? Will they be enjoying the onboard amenities? Report what the kids earn in your program. Avoid the word “win” in descriptions even if it is a contest where a select few will win the ride. Use “earn” instead.
• When: When will they take their ride? Invite the media to be present for photos and video. How long does the program last? Include all details about timelines involved.
• Where: Where will the kids be going? If you have a partner, such as a pizza parlor, an amusement park, or other child-friendly location, be sure to mention their involvement as well. It lends more credibility to have other community business partners as a destination.
• Why: What made your company get involved? Be specific beyond the standard “wanting to make the community a better place to live and help the youth of the community.” Relay some personal anecdote about any of your positive or inspirational education experiences or those of your children. Or just talk about your “give back” reasons for whatever you have accomplished or been blessed with.
• How: How will students be chosen for the ride? What were their academic challenges? How did the association between the school and your business come about? Also, share some details about your stretch limousine, including amenities and its client runs. You also should promote the safety aspects of renting a limousine, since your precious youth cargo will some day grow up into teen-agers getting driver’s licenses.
Fruits of labor
Las Vegas-based operator Kellie McKinley developed a unique and inspiring incentive program for Las Vegas schools. McKinley’s company, Seiji Limousine, garnered major media attention when she rolled out the program. McKinley founded her company in 2009 and immediately contacted the Public Education Foundation in Las Vegas to express her interest in promoting academic achievement by offering free limousine rides. Before she knew it, her new company had more press than she could have ever imagined. This included a full-page spread in the local newspaper about her efforts and more importantly the success of the program. Her efforts focused on “at-risk” students, gaining her good publicity and a strong sense of community involvement.
McKinley was inspired by a young boy she drove that had received a settlement from an auto accident. His parents allowed him to spend a small amount of the settlement on himself and his friends. He chartered a limousine and took his friends to 7-Eleven. As McKinley pulled up, all the kids in the neighborhood came to see the limousine. McKinley handed out business cards. “I swear to you, it’s like I was driving an ice cream truck that was filled with ice cream,” she recalled. That was when McKinley realized the magical power that limousines have on children of all ages. McKinley now regularly rewards children who have overcome obstacles in their lives to succeed in their academic careers.
How McKinley’s program works
Participating schools each select one student per year to join a program she calls, On the Winning Road. Each principal determines the criteria for choosing a student.
McKinley takes it a step beyond providing a free limo ride. The winner is invited to bring seven friends that each receive $20 from McKinley to spend during the ride while the selected student is given $100 to either spend during the trip or save for later. Giving back to her community has been a dream of McKinley’s. “It’s a good feeling to be able to share what I can with the youth,” McKinley said. On the Winning Road is designed to motivate students by rewarding one young person at each participating school with a five-hour, after-school limousine excursion. The winning students choose the details, but they usually include a ride down Las Vegas Boulevard, a visit to GameWorks, a trip to New York-New York. and a meal.
Ideas to get started
There are many places to connect with kids that truly need to be motivated. Your local school district is just one place to start. Most schools have a community outreach specialist that focuses on working with at-risk youth. If your district does not have one, talk to the school principal or guidance counselor. You also might contact the juvenile probation department, your city or county human services department that manages the foster care program, or even activity centers such as the YMCA or YWCA. There are youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs or Police Activities Leagues, and organizations such as Junior Achievement. All of these organizations are starved for funding to accomplish their missions and usually welcome any type of community support and help they can get.
Long term results
Remember, these children will grow up and have children of their own. By helping them now, it is highly likely these kids will become your customers in the future. You also can assume their parents and grandparents will notice your commitment to the community and to their child. They quite possibly could become your nexts clients or at least refer people to your business.
SIDEBAR: Connecting With Kids
Here are some ideas for offering free rides
• Straight ”A” students
• Highest GPA of the year
• Perfect attendance
• Most improved GPA
• Recycling programs such as most phone books collected
• Good behavior rewards
• Student of the Month
• Volunteer of the Year
• Most books read