A Campaign to Dispel Myths by Angele Young, Veolia Transportation The VTNO Marketing and Communications team sat down with Justin T. Augustine, Vice President of Veolia Transportation New Orleans, to discuss important marketing objectives for the Regional Transit Authority here in New Orleans. From this meeting the idea to create a sharp, interesting, mini-campaign that would address some common misconceptions was born. New Orleans is known for its friendliness and charm, and the fact that we enjoy 2 degrees of separation instead of six like the rest of the world. So, it's not hard to figure out how easily information and ideas can travel. This word-of-mouth environment is both a haven and hell for a marketer. If you get the right customers to buy into your product or service, you're set. However, the task of changing a negative perception is often like climbing up a mountain, or in New Orleans, you might say, it's more like swimming across the Mississippi River. As a major domestic and international tourist destination, it's easy to see how the local community can feel insignificant at times. New Orleans does hospitality so well that we are known to be charming, entertaining, fun and exciting and most accommodating to the needs of the year-round tourism industry. While true, this perception is so pervasive that its effect sometimes sends a mixed message to the regular citizen that he/she just isn't that important. The absence of a direct message to the local community makes room for many misconceptions. But, this thinking is so far from the truth especially here at the RTA. We created the “Dispelling Myths” campaign as an internal endeavor to present the facts about who we really are and what we really do. We created five advertising lines that represent RTA facts. 1) You're in Dat Number. 90% of all RTA riders are locals. Did you realize that the community we serve most is locals, even on the Streetcars? However, many people believe that our streetcars are for tourists only. Since we are a city who knows no stranger, it goes without saying that we do love tourists but RTA's daily rider is priority. We make every effort to serve and meet the daily demands of our family right here at home. 2) The Small Business Engine that Could. We committed $17 million to small disadvantaged business in 2012. This may echo the previous sentiments, but the RTA's first commitment is to home. It is a top priority to invest funds with local, small and disadvantaged business. That commitment has reflected in the dollars spent and goals that are strategically set to reach this objective. 3) Laying Tracks for Economic Development. RTA expansions have spurred $2 billion of private investment in the local economy. Here's that word again, local. The Loyola Streetcar expansion has spurred some of the largest investment into a decaying corridor that this city has ever seen. Before the project even broke ground funds were being invested in this corridor based on this approximate 6 city block transit expansion. 4) Setting the Gold Standard for Safety. We won the TSA Award for exceptional safety in transportation. The evaluation by the TSA focuses on security plans, security training, drills/exercise programs, public outreach efforts and background-check programs. Meeting the criteria set by the TSA for safety statistics led to an award for exceptional safety from the Transportation Security Administration. 5) Moving People. Driving New Orleans Forward. We've increased service to make your trip easier. While service is not at pre-Katrina levels, we certainly have increased service incrementally over the years following the storm's devastating blow to our city and its infrastructures. It is the goal of the RTA to continue on a path of forward progress by improving service levels whenever possible. The execution of the “Dispelling Myths Campaign” has been concentrated to the RTA's available vehicle inventory in order to cost effectively and efficiently present these strategic messages. As we continue to develop and expand our marketing and advertisement budget, we hope to have greater opportunity to make a greater impression on the community that as the Regional Transit Authority and Veolia we are here to serve the local community in their daily public transportation needs.