In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New Jersey and tore up the coastline, inflicting $70 billion damage and causing over 200 casualties. Following this tragic event, the state of New Jersey hired a public relations firm to lure tourists back to the Jersey Shore.
Now, a new campaign is underway and the company behind the “Stronger Than the Storm” campaign, an initiative to help the state get back on track with it’s post-storm messaging, is in charge. Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokesperson, announced MWW, an influential public relations firm, was hired on 4 September for $250,000.
According to Snyder, MWW has six months to recommend an overhaul to NJ Transit’s communication. MMW is New Jersey’s largest public relations and lobbying company, and developed the “Stronger than the Storm” ad campaign to promote tourism in the Jersey Shore while the area was getting back on its feet.
NJ Transits communication tactics during crisis and times of trouble have been an area of concern. Communication in instances from delays to service suspensions has been criticized by commuters as well as Governor Phil Murphy. Murphy described the agency’s communication with commuters in the past nine months as “unacceptable”.
One commuter posted on Twitter “@NJTRANSIT on the 7:51 Train: 6616 and you don’t even let us know why we were stopped for so long. I want a divorce! There’s no communication with your ever! How do you expect this relationship to last without it? My mother was right about you! You are a loser.”
Customers of the state rail service are quick to criticize the timeliness of alerts and the lack of details provided. In the wake of incidents such as a minor derailment in Penn Station New York, commuters want more information. Commuters have expressed frustrations over getting alerts about cancellations or delays too late to even arrange for alternate methods of transport.
In an audit ordered by Governor Murphy, a study on the agency’s communications was conducted by North Highland Consulting, who recommend the NJ Transit rethink its whole social media engagement strategy with consumers.
While its engagement with both North Highland and MWW might seem redundant, NJ Transit has definitely shown eagerness to improve in its effectiveness in communicating with the public.
For $250,000, NJ Transit gets a “full analysis” of the existing communication structure to “improve the effectiveness, timeliness, consistency and quality of customer communications,” explained Snyder. She added the PR firm will also formulate a “comprehensive communication strategy for internal and external communications”.
In addition, MMW will determine the industry standards for communication and methods to get relevant information to commuters in time. The PR firm will further review and revise the way NJ Transit markets itself externally.
The “Stronger than the Storm” campaign, whilst successful, was also criticized for featuring the then Governor Chris Christie in its ads during his re-election bid, with Democrats saying it unfairly provides him with more media attention.