As I write this column in mid-August, association activity is fairly slow as members take a break from the usual business meetings in favor of social events, golf outings, picnics and other activities. On the TNC battle front, legislatures are in recess or politicians are vacationing, so most action must wait until the fall when the combatants re-engage.
Of course, Florida associations struggle constantly with TNCs, so the issue sticks around just like the humid summer heat. In fact, Uber pulled out of Broward County on July 31 because the TNC called rules to legalize TNCs’ “too onerous.” Then in August, it stepped up a lobbying/PR campaign and mobilized their social network to pressure county commissioners to give in to its demands of fewer regulations.
No one has fought the good fight better than Florida Limousine Association President Rick Versace (A1A Airport and Limousine Service, Boca Raton). He continues to rally operators to reach out to legislators and contribute to lobbying and PR initiatives that counter the behemoth TNC PR/lobbying/marketing machine, especially in battleground regions such as Palm Beach County, Tampa, and Brevard County.
Considering Florida attracts millions of tourists and convention goers per year, as well as a growing population, the TNCs will do whatever necessary to stake a flag in the Sunshine State.
One of the tactics that Versace, as well as the West Florida Livery Association (WFLA) and Greater Orlando Limousine Association (GOLA), uses is to rally support against illegal TNCs through the media. Versace, for example, has authored newspaper opinion columns about illegal TNCs, held press conferences in the state capitol, and sent out PSAs (Public Service Announcements) to the broadcast media.
In New Jersey, Limousine Association of New Jersey (LANJ) President Jeff Shanker (A-1 Limousine, Princeton) also understands the power of the press, writing newspaper columns for major newspapers and news websites such as NJ.com. Like Versace, Shanker uses the media as part of LANJ’s “grassroots” strategy to educate the public while countering TNCs. In fact, Shanker in August appeared on a broadcast segment, “On The Air,” where he was interviewed about TNCs.
Versace, Shanker and other association presidents, board directors and members realize that while they lack the funds to go toe-to-toe with TNCs, they certainly can get their message out through free media coverage. In addition, Shanker and other associations have urged their members to write letters-to-the-editor to their local news outlets, and send advocacy letters to their local legislators opposing TNCs.
In today’s 24/7 news cycle, media extends well beyond traditional broadcast TV, radio and newspapers. There are numerous online news sites and digital-based outlets, such as community-based Patch.com, which always seek contributed columns or leads on local stories about a business or issue. And then there are plenty of social media sites and forums where you can opine about TNCs.
It doesn’t take any money to circulate views and messages in the media. It just takes time and effort to craft a letter, column or talking points, and then engage a reporter or editor to publish your remarks or become a source for an article on the TNC issue.
The old adage that in politics, everything is local, certainly applies to the ground transportation industry. TNCs affect almost every county, city and state. As local and state legislators resume their agendas in the fall, a groundswell of operators who know how to use media microphones will help the cause.