A 3-Stepped Approach Hits the Advocacy Target for Megabus
Coach USA/Megabus, the bus company known for affordable rides across the United States has been particularly successfully at the nuances of the site visit, and at bridging online and offline advocacy techniques.
Conducting a congressional site visit to an office, school, or factory is nothing new. Interest groups court elected officials at all levels of government to visit their physical buildings to better educate them on their home turf and get media attention.
At the federal level, August is traditionally when many of these site visits occur, because members of Congress are in their home districts during recess. Other site visits by local and state officials occur throughout the year and are oftentimes coordinated with a ceremonial event.
Coach USA/Megabus recently used their service and supporters to successfully implement a campaign that put their record and issues before legislators and regulators in a unique, and highly effective, way.
“We wanted to salute the states and D.C. that we operate in, and thought it would be a fun way to get our passengers involved with their opinion,” says Sean Hughes, director of corporate affairs for Coach USA/Mega North America. The campaign had the added bonus of getting the company representatives in front of their local officials.
The campaign was threefold.
1) Naming the Bus: The company got consumers and brand advocates to vote online to name a bus in their fleet in each of the 33 states and the District of Columbia where they operate. The campaign began in July, when travel season was in full swing, with the goal of phase one to raise awareness, get people involved with the campaign, and ultimately ride the buses. More than 50,000 people voted nationwide in less than six weeks.
2) Energizing Supporters: Megabus announced the winners of the vote just before Labor Day weekend, another high-volume travel time. Traditional media and social media, featuring state seals, were used to announce the winners. Following the media announcement, Megabus sent out an email blast with the final list of winning names for their buses in each state. More than 120,000 visitors came to their website to learn the name of their state bus within 30 hours of the email being sent.
3) Elected Officials Tour: With consumers and supporters of Megabus energized following the campaign, Megabus decided to bring the newly-named buses to state capitols, and invited dignitaries at the local, state, and federal levels to tour the double decker buses, surrounded by fans of Megabus. During the ceremonies and tours of the buses, Megabus was given the opportunity to speak face-to-face about their issues and legislative priorities, and to convey their solid safety record.
So far the company has held these mobile site visits with dignitaries in Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. with plans for more this year. There’s also the possibility of hosting an official town hall meeting on a bus with a Governor. During the events that have already occurred, pictures were taken with elected officials, and shared on social media, further connecting offline with online advocacy.
5 Tips For Launching Your Own Successful Campaign
Not every organization has a double decker bus to showcase, but there are some universal tactics Megabus applied, that you can deploy in your advocacy efforts.
1. Listen to your consumers, supporters, and advocates: Take their input from the beginning and your ultimate ‘ask’ or call to action will have a base of supporters.
2. Get elected officials out of their offices and onto your turf: Put elected officials in the shoes of your advocates, consumers, employees, or supporters. Taking lawmakers outside the halls of Congress or state capitols, will expose them to new issues, and give you the opportunity to better acquaint them with your issues outside of their comfort zone.
3. Amplify your activities with online and offline communications: Use your own channels and leverage partners and media outlets to increase visibility of your organization, legislative priorities, and the actual culminating event. Social media is a must for these site visits, and the press departments of members of Congress are usually grateful for positive posts, tweets, and photos of a site visit.
4. Invoke the pride and competitiveness of consumers, supporters, or advocates:
Megabus successful energized their supporters through a contest that invoked the pride of states. The buses became a symbol of a state where people lived. State by state competition and contests are common in grassroots campaigns, for both recruitment and engagement purposes.
5. Make it a creative, compelling, and interactive campaign
Megabus launched a campaign and contest that got supporters excited about their service and brand, which was a success in itself. But they went the extra mile and leveraged these factors to pursue their government relations agenda. The campaign made the transition from something that had nothing to do with government, to one that showcased their service before local, state, and federal government officials.