Transportation Companies Face Special Problems

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Think about the different forms of public transportation that are available to you, and the conditions under which they operate and you can come up with some public relations strategies of your own. What do we mean by public transportation? You guessed it airlines, railroads, buses and subways. The competition for passengers among the different carriers gets pretty fierce at times.

Airlines, for one, are not only competing with one another but with railroads and buses as well. And buses and subways are doing their best to attract commuters going to and from work. Each one is trying to lure business its way.

Especially around holidays, airlines engage in bitter price wars with each other. The public relations staff of a domestic airline that features a number of daily flights to Florida might design a promotional package giving families a considerable discount if they take their kids along. This attracts families who might not normally take their children with them and, most important, it draws business away from competing airlines.



A PR worker employed by a railroad that crisscrosses the country has his work cut out for him in an age that has seen airlines supersede the railroads. Since time is precious, especially when you're on vacation, most travelers are reluctant to spend hours sit ting on a train when they can get to their destination quickly. So it's not hard to understand why railroads are losing a great deal of money and why so many are being forced into bankruptcy. To fight the competition, major railroads are spending large sums of money on public relations in order to recover business lost to the airlines.

Luxury tours tied to sizable hotel discounts might be one strategy; another is the convenience of allowing travelers to transport their automobiles along with them so they can have a means of transportation when they arrive at their destination.

Public relations for intra-city bus and subway lines fall into still another category. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the government agency that runs New York City's massive bus and subway network, is a good illustration of a sprawling intra-city transportation system.

The MTA's PR staff has little time to create impressive promotional campaigns. Instead, most of their energy is spent in acting as an intermediary between commuters and MTA management. After a major subway breakdown, for instance, a press conference is hastily arranged at which MTA management is called on the carpet to explain what went wrong and what is going to be done to prevent similar accidents in the future.

It's not hard to figure out who writes the diplomatically prepared press releases as well as the speeches for MTA executives. You guessed it: the overworked public relations staff. Within hours after an accident, statements have to be made to the media and especially to angry commuters. Explanations are demanded and the public relations department has to deliver them. If the accident occurred during the evening rush hour, the PR staff resigns itself to burning the midnight oil until the job is done.

Large Industries versus Small Industries

Rarely do you find a company that starts out big. Just as babies progress through childhood to adolescence and, eventually, reach adulthood, businesses grow in much the same way. The goal of every small business is to be a major force in its field. And naturally the public relations strategy of an emerging company is structured around building the company, improving its profits and market share and making it a significant power within its industry. Since small companies operate in a business environment dominated by giants, PR workers strive for greater visibility for their companies.

A small company is a marvelous place to get some experience if you're just starting out in the field. Instead of being thrust into a company employing thousands of employees, you're working in a more intimate setting employing a few hundred people or less. The PR department is small and is involved in all facets of the company. Within an intimate corporate setting, you either sink or swim and become a jack-of-all-trades, mastering all of them.

With a few years of experience under your belt, you have the choice of either remaining a big fish in a small but growing pool or going on to become a junior member of a PR staff of a large corporation. In either position, you have an opportunity to carve an exciting and potentially lucrative career for yourself. Some people prefer working within a large company consisting of many tiers of command, whereas others thrive in a small company where they know each worker on a first-name basis.

Conglomerates and Multinationals

We've mentioned the differences between working for a large as opposed to a small corporation. But there are all degrees of large companies. There are multidivisional national companies that produce one product and distribute it all over the world. And there are even larger companies called conglomerates, or multinationals, which are involved in many business ventures, many of which have no relationship to one another except for the financial ties to the parent company.

Let's take a look at a large conglomerate, such as Warner Communications. To name only a few of its operations, Warner Communications is a major magazine distributor, book and magazine publisher and owner of a few successful record companies and movie studios. Its companies have divisions all over the world. Other large conglomerates are simply referred to by their initials, such as LTV, TRW and ITT.

Since their businesses are large and complex, their public relations are a lot more sophisticated and specialized than those of smaller companies. Since they do business in many countries as well as in the United States, the public relations staffs have unique problems and objectives to contend with. For instance, establishing communication channels between management and employees throughout the world is a full-time job in itself. What with language barriers to be hurdled, distributing corporate information involves a multistep process. An important press release, for example, might have to be translated into five different languages before it can be distributed to its international divisions.

Given the gargantuan scale of the company's business, gaining public and investor recognition must also be a formidable under taking. The sheer size of the company is an index of its public relations activities. You might find yourself working in either the publications, international, domestic or technical section of the public relations department. Or you might be either involved in writing, account executive or speechwriting end of the business. So it stands to reason that specialization is necessary and essential in order to conduct an effective public relations campaign.
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