Tag Archives: public relations

Social Distancing ≠ Disconnected

By Bill Smith

Blog post 03-24-20It has been an eventful week, to say the least. Many of my clients have begun to work from home and chances are, your customers have too. It’s important to remember that social distancing doesn’t mean people will be disconnected. Your customers and potential customers will have Internet access and they’ll be online. And as they work from home, they’ll have fewer distractions (at least those who don’t have young kids!), and more time to spend reading professional journals, online publications, and professional blogs.

Many of the publications that parking professionals turn to for new ideas and information on trends and best practices also have online versions and blogs. For instance, IPMI’s blog is always looking for new content that will benefit IPMI members. And it’s not just parking publications that are looking for useful content. The various vertical publications that cover parking—university, airport, healthcare, municipal management, real estate and building owner/manager publications, and more—also need articles. And those articles will reach your customers and prospects.

In the coming weeks, don’t give in to the urge to sit back and wait for the coronavirus hysteria to pass. Be aggressive and focus more on public relations and reaching your most important audiences quickly and effectively online. That way, you can take advantage of readers’ more focused attention while they are working from home. Not only will this benefit your organization, but it will help publications that are trying to serve subscribers and other readers while they are working at home.

Bill Smith is president of Smith Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor to Parking & Mobility magazine.


The Promise of Digital Media

By Bill Smith, APR

I HAVE BEEN DOING PARKING PUBLIC RELATIONS (PR) FOR 25 YEARS (I’m really old). In that time, I’ve seen the industry experience incredible change, particularly when it comes to the effects of technology on operations and customer service. As you might expect, technology has also had an extraordinary impact on public relations and how we publicize parking and parking organizations.

When online publications first appeared in the mid-’90s, they caused quite a bit of panic in the PR world. The conventional wisdom was that with everyone able to communicate directly, old-school media would disappear. The typical advice to publicists was, better start looking for a new career!

To say these fears were misplaced would be an un­derstatement. While it’s true that the advent of the digital age has had an enormous effect, the end result has been the introduction of thousands of new digital publications. Many are online versions of traditional publications; some are online newsletters, blogs, and magazines published by traditional media; and still others are online-only outlets that cover parking or parking-related issues. As a result, there are literally thousands more opportunities for parking organiza­tions to publicize themselves and their services.

We’ve discussed the benefits of publicity in prior columns. There’s no better way to reach large num­bers of potential customers, strategic partners, and even employees. Publicity is a powerful tool that can increase your credibility, make prospective partners aware of you and your expertise, and help disseminate important messages to key audiences.
But to benefit from this tremendous media land­scape, you need to take the initiative. Public relations should be part of every organization’s marketing strat­egy, and the PR strategy should complement the rest of your marketing strategy.

Finding Your Audience
In looking for opportunities to publicize your organiza­tion, don’t limit your efforts to local media and parking publications—although industry publications remain a strong first-line publicity tool. There are thousands of publications out there with an interest in parking. Many are daily newspapers and business publications that serve communities facing parking issues and with transportation, planning, and features editors and reporters who would love to have access to your expertise on those parking and mobility issues. If your organization is national or international in scope, such as a consultant or technology provider, these publi­cations present many opportunities to promote your brand and raise awareness of your expertise.

There are also hundreds of non-parking trade pub­lications serving many vertical markets to which you market your services. The most common verticals for parking organizations are real estate and develop­ment, building ownership and management, hospi­tality and casinos, airports, universities, hospitals, and government management. Each of these verticals has several media outlets offering publicity opportunities.

Beyond the Obvious
There are also less obvious media targets, such as technology media, engineering, and architecture pub­lications, which also provide excellent opportunities to promote your organization. When seeking out targets, don’t limit yourself to only the most obvious indus­tries and categories. Opportunity often lies in unex­pected places, and it’s important to be creative and open-minded when seeking opportunity.

And of course, print publications represent just a fraction of the publicity opportunities open to you. For every print publication there are five online versions and online-only publications. Take advantage of them along with the traditional print vehicles.
Finally, when you generate publicity, that’s not the end of the process. Articles that you author or that mention you or your organization also make great marketing pieces. Make sure to post PDFs or links on your organization’s website and social media plat­forms. Also share your coverage by sending the PDFs and links to your digital mailing list.
The proliferation of digital media provides a dra­matically increased opportunity to promote you and your organization. Take advantage of this multitude of opportunities.

Read the article here.

BILL SMITH, APR, is principal of Smith-Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor of Parking & Mobility. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com or 603.491.4280.


Changing the Narrative

By Chelsea Webster

Have you ever unjustly gotten a parking ticket? Had your car towed? Encountered a broken parking meter or machine and been unable to pay for your parking session? Unsuccessfully tried to appeal a violation notice?

As parking professionals, we sometimes become desensitized to these very real (and sometimes very upsetting) customer issues. When that happens, when we simply go about doing our jobs, we can become the thorn in our (paying) customers’ sides. We can do rotten things like tow a charitable bus that provides haircuts to homeless people to help them prepare for job interviews, and send them a $900 bill for our efforts (yes, we did that in Calgary–read about it here). We can also generate plenty of negative headlines with the mere proposal of higher parking permit fees.

In the age of social media, it should surprise absolutely no one when news outlets on all kinds of platforms get hold of these stories. And it should also surprise absolutely no one when parking authorities and transportation departments become targets of the public’s wrath. But are negative stories forever in our future? Are we destined to be vilified time and time again?

What if–just maybe–parking authorities, parking operators, and parking departments could change the narrative? What if we could shift the focus to our sponsorship programs, our community involvement, our good deeds that repeatedly go unnoticed? If this sounds too good to be true, prepare to have your mind blown at IPMI this year, and don’t miss the session “Media Interactions 101 for Parking Professionals.”

Chelsea Webster is marketing specialist with ParkPlus System. She will present on this topic at the 2019 IPMI Conference & Expo, June 9-12 in Anaheim, Calif. For more information and to register, click here.