Monday, November 9, 2009

SEPTA is Back!

The Transportation Workers' Union, Local 234, reached a deal with the Southeastern Transportation Authority (SEPTA) early this morning, effectively ending the strike that had discontinued Philadelphia's subway, bus and trolley transportation for six days.

Luckily, this strike didn't even last week, in comparison to a similar strike four years ago that lasted for four months. Although this conflict was resolved relatively quickly, as we discussed in one of my PR classes today, there are several things that the Transportation Workers' Union failed to do during the strike that could have rallied more public support for their cause and possibly pressured SEPTA to strike a deal sooner.

Here are three things we came up with, with the help of our teacher:
  1. The Transportation Workers' Union did not effectively keep the media in the loop about what was going on. The union did not proliferate a cohesive or consistent message to the media, nor did they effectively convey their side of the conflict. As my teacher explained, the strike began on Tuesday and it wasn't until Friday that the union's national leaders stepped in, brought their own PR people, and were finally able to articulate to the public a specific reason as to why they were striking. Particularly in a strike situation, it is crucial that an organization make clear its goals and demands.
  2. The Transportation Workers' Union failed to keep its own workers in the loop. As my teacher explained, workers can be important vehicles through which the organization can get its message out. Keeping workers informed as to the state of negotiations and the ideas driving the strike would have been really helpful in securing public support for the strike because these workers could help spread the word and raise awareness for the union's cause. In contrast, many Local 234 workers were not kept abreast on the union's actions. Ironically, the morning the strike was begun, several workers showed up at their job posts to start their workday because they weren't even informed they were on strike.
  3. The Transportation Workers' Union did not use new media to get their message out. Until Friday, when the national union heads stepped in with their own PR team, the union was not using the web or Twitter to spread its message. This would have been important for several reasons. For one, the use of new media would have helped the union keep the public informed about their progress and demands in real time. Secondly, as my teacher explained, messages spread through new media outlets like Twitter have a higher rate of retention and spread. This means that new media would have been particularly effective in helping the organization get its word out. Lastly, the use of new media would have helped tap into the demographic of teens and young adults, a group that has the capability to exert a lot of power and influence. Successfully engaging this demographic could have given the union's cause a real boost.
Ultimately, the union could have done a much better job of communicating with the public and raising awareness and support for its causes during this strike. Situations like these are great opportunities for aspiring PR professionals, like myself, to learn valuable lessons about crisis communications.

No comments: