Advocacy often begins when you share your story or message in a way that makes people care about you, your company and your industry.
“There are ways that we can get ourselves, our industry, our individual companies into the news,” said Cary Martin, of Little Rock Coaches. “The more media attention we get, the better it is for the industry. And the more people are familiar with what we do, the more on our side they tend to be.”
Martin, a former TV news anchor, brought his expertise to a recent UMA Town Hall as part of an expert panel that included Clarence Cox, of Georgia Coach Lines; James Wang, of Peoria Charter Coach; and Patricia Plodzeen, of Patricia Plodzeen Public Relations.
They had lots of tips to share about how they successfully get stories picked up by the news media.
Martin recommends going to a TV station or newspaper’s website and finding the icon asking for story ideas. It’s best to submit a press release that has the who, what, when, where and why, along with contact information.
The secret to writing a compelling press release is being active, engaging and having mass appeal, Martin says.
Localizing a national story
“You can call the assignment desk and ask to speak with the assignment editor, who helps choose the stories that are being covered that day,” said Martin, explaining that reaching out to an assignment editor, a producer or a reporter also is a good place to share a story.
News organizations are often looking for a way to localize a national story.
A lot of times, they will look at a story that is getting national attention. During Hurricane Ida, Martin reached out to local media organizations in Little Rock to let them know he was sending motorcoaches to do evacuations.
“Every story should have a ‘today’ hook,” said Martin. “They’re probably not going to do a story today that could be done next week. Newspeople tend to keep pushing those off, looking for a today peg. If you’ve got motorcoaches leaving for hurricane evacuations today, they need to know that.”
He says a national story that every operator is experiencing is the driver shortage, which is creating a disruption for local sports teams and students.
“A group is being left without transportation; the media is going to want to go show those people getting in caravans and cars, and how they’re overcoming that shortage. But then they’re also going to come to you, especially if you pitch that story on how you might be able to help that situation. Maybe you’re trying to hire drivers or you’re buying more coaches or whatever the case may be. So, that’s how we kind of work our way into that story.”
Martin also takes a nonchalant approach when it comes to pitching a news story to the media.
“I’ll say, ‘Hey, here’s a story that affects a lot of people, and here’s my phone number if you want more information,” said Martin, who says he wants to convey that he isn’t “someone who’s looking for their five minutes of fame. This is someone who might have legitimate information. Then it becomes something that they’re more likely to chase.”
Highlighting good things
Cox takes a little different approach.
“I look for opportunities to highlight the good things that we do,” said Cox, who first learned how to work with journalists during his law enforcement career. Those relationships have resulted in coverage of his many humanitarian efforts, including recently leading a convoy to Louisiana to deliver supplies to survivors of Hurricane Ida.
What began during his law enforcement years, and when he was president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, was his desire to support the community. As he transitioned into taking over his family’s motorcoach business, he continued to find ways to make a difference.
“As I have to segue into the motorcoach industry, I’ve taken some of those things and capitalized on them,” said Cox, who encouraged operators to think about ways they could support the community. “We’ve got so many opportunities. It would be awesome to donate a bus to take some senior citizens, who never get out, to a fall festival. You call the media and let them know.”
He encourages people to build a relationship with a station’s community affairs division. “Tell them what you’re doing. Most people are just so afraid of the media because of all the bad things that they report, but you’ve got to put a spin on it to try to make it as good as you can.”
Building an audience
Wang connects to his audience directly as a YouTuber.
“Be yourself, talk to your camera or your phone as if your best friend is with you on a motorcoach trip, and you have to explain why I’m doing this,” said Wang, who has a YouTube channel devoted to motorcoach operator life, with more than 14,000 subscribers.
Wang, who moved with his family to the United States from China when he was 5 years old, remembers that he loved motorcoaches from first sight, describing them as basically luxury airlines on wheels. He began driving buses in college. After graduating with an MBA, he realized he wanted to continue driving buses. At Peoria Coach, he’s able to drive while putting his MBA to work as a partner in the business.
He decided to launch a YouTube channel devoted to drivers to raise the position’s prestige to what it is in England and Germany.
“I decided I want people to know what it’s like to be a bus driver,” said Wang, who began using an old JVC camera that had been collecting dust. He almost quit before he got started but stuck with it.
“I just kind of played around. I watched other vloggers do their thing and learned from them,” said Wang, who thinks the industry needs more of a presence on YouTube and other social media platforms.
Listen to all of their tips by watching the recorded video.