Talking to the Media — Change the ‘tone’ or Change the message
My buddy Dennis Burns over at the IPI Blog is talking today about how to change the topic when the media comes after you about parking issues. He says that we should take a positive tone and refer to all the great accomplishments parking has made. He refers to a briefing card prepared by the IPI that gives potential answers to questions from a hostile media. Fair enough.
Unfortunately, the briefing card speaks from the point of view of the parking industry, and not from the point of view of our customers.
It speaks to technology, to the need for more parking professionals involved in parking decisions, it blames garage design for backups at exit, notes that parking tickets aren’t punitive, and so forth. You can read it for yourself here.
What if we stepped back and looked at this from the point of view of the person parking, not from the point of view of the person who runs the garage.
The parkers frankly don’t care if some hotshot designer didn’t work on the garage, they just care that they had to wait. They don’t care that the technology they used to pay was world class, they want to know where the money went. They don’t really care for the reasons they got a citation, they just know they didn’t like it.
Its like talking about a new radar system Delta is using on its 777 when their passengers are asking about surcharges for baggage.
I just think we may be missing the message. If I could be sure the money made from parking actually went to pay for streets or parks of police, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad about renting a few square feet of space for $5 an hour. If I could see the results of the technology (like wayfinding red/green lights) then maybe I would feel better about my parking experience. If the solution to the long lines was a different way to collect the money and it was instituted, then the lines would go away and I wouldn’t be concerned about it.
Parkers care about the moment. They care about the few minutes they take paying, they care about the instant they receive the citation, they care about how easy or difficult it was to park or whether the space was available.
I know the Delta passenger doesn’t want the plane to crash, but some things are assumed. It they worried about that they never would get on the plane.
When we talk about fancy technology or reasons for citations or why you have to pay, we are talking to ourselves. I don’t think we are talking to our customers.
Sure they hear us, but does it make any difference. In the blog responses below, writers note that parking makes money, a lot of money, and that most people don’t care about anything and won’t change.
I’m a little more optimistic that than. People may not be able to change, but they can understand, and feel better about the process. Our streets are better because I paid for parking. Or better, money from this parking operation helped pay for the new wing on the Children’s Hospital. If my first citation was a warning, maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad when I got the real one next time.
By talking about what we are “going to do” or “it would be great if we did” it means nothing. If your garage is dark, light it. If people back up, fix the problem, if its dirty clean it.
There are cities out there that really work to get their parking problems solved. I have been to universities where they worry about the most minor problems and then solve them. They communicate with their customers and it makes a difference.
I know that these issues are difficult. But problems like this are solved at the neighborhood level. Sweeping rules don’t work everywhere. We need to think globally, but act locally.
If I change the tone of the discussion with the media, the discussion is still there, and the reporter feels stonewalled. He knows that he has personally experienced parking issues and wants answers.
Know your facts. Know your community. Know where the parking problems are and what is being done to solve them. If nothing is being done, say so. Then go out and solve the problems. One by one. Bit by bit. Things only get better when you take action.