CAMPAIGNS: Tourism PR - Museum lets cab drivers do talking

Client: The Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)

Client: The Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)

Client: The Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Yellow Fever Taxi Driver Day

Time Frame: April 10 and 24, 2000

Budget: dollars 1,200



Newark's revitalization, from the recent opening of the Performing Arts Center to the influx of new companies, means more people are visiting the city for the first time. In light of this, the Newark Museum, which houses notable African and Asian art collections, wanted to make sure newcomers and long-time residents alike knew about its offerings.

Who better to serve as unofficial ambassadors for the museum than cab drivers? After all, they usher people from the airport, and visitors are quick to ask them for advice about what to do in town. The trouble is, many cab drivers have never been to the museum, and it's hard to sell what you don't know.



Strategy

Twice before in the early 1990s the museum had hosted an event for cabbies that included a tour of the museum. These had been successful, so it was decided to use a similar approach. The museum's in-house PR team came up with Yellow Fever Taxi Driver Day to acquaint cabbies with the museum's treasures.

The idea had emerged when taxi commissioner Lee Williams attended an event at the museum.

Rhona Fischer, a member of the Newark Museum Council, suggested to Williams that they work together by tying the cab driver's license renewal to a tour of the museum. In doing so, the museum would get its ambassadors, and the taxi commission would get drivers who know the museum and can therefore provide better customer service to clients who want to get the most out of their time in the city.

The museum's hope was that word of mouth would increase museum traffic.

'Getting cab drivers on board is important because they're in touch with our target audience: tourists. We want the drivers to be our advocates,' says the museum's assistant director of membership Karen Hansen, who helped coordinate the effort.



Tactics

Williams sent drivers a letter inviting them to one of two Yellow Fever Taxi Driver days, April 10 or 24. Activities would include a tour of the museum's collections and exhibits, talks about various activities and programs, and refreshments. The drivers would also receive brochures about the museum.

Since time is money for the cabbie crowd, Williams' letter went on to explain the real advantage of attending: the taxi commission had arranged it so that drivers could renew their licenses in the museum parking lot after the event.

The museum purposely chose days when it was normally closed on which to hold the event so it could focus on the cabbies and lessen parking lot headaches. It rounded up about 20 volunteers per day to serve as tour guides and greeters, along with museum staff.

Press releases went out to local daily and weekly newspapers prior to the event.



Results

A large piece covering the event appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger's 'Today' section, and The Museum News, a bi-monthly magazine for museum professionals, ran a one-page story and photo. The American Association for Museum Volunteers ran a front-page story in its quarterly newsletter.

'We believe it worked, though there are no hard numbers,' says Hansen.

But about a week later, a museum employee's husband took a cab from the airport and told his driver that he wanted to go to the museum.

'And the cabbie proudly showed him the Star-Ledger article,' says Hansen.

In all, 600 cab drivers made it in and out of the museum.



Future

Yellow Fever Taxi Driver Day won't be repeated every year, but there will be variations on the theme.

For example, this fall the museum tapped another captive audience - jurors.

Says McConnell: 'If we can find people like jurors who would normally just eat lunch at the courthouse, and encourage them to make use of that dead time, we'll do it. It's all about getting people here.'



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