The Canadian Taxicab Operators Group Strategic Communications

Ottawa taxi

Project Description
Canada has seen sharp increase in the use of unregulated cars for hire from coast to coast.  Canadians are choosing to use ridesharing apps, such as Lyft and Uber that match passengers with drivers as a low-cost alternative to using a regular taxi service.

Canada’s regulated taxis cannot compete with such services on price, owing the cost of compliance and licensing conditions. That’s why seven large taxicab operators located in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver formed an alliance to fight Uber and similar services on a national front.

Smart, strategic communications are crucial in providing a unified voice for the Canadian taxicab industry in the face of a major, and illegal, disruption. As such, the communications objectives are:

  • Raise awareness of the benefits of a regulated taxi industry to Canadians;
  • Raise awareness of the value for money that taxi services provide both customers and the communities they operate in; and,
  • Drive customer preference for traditional taxi services.

Target audiences include:

  • Tech-savvy city dwellers in Canada’s major urban centres
  • Politicians and regulators in seven cities
  • Licensed drivers

The Canadian national, regional and local media had been giving Uber and Hailo significant daily coverage. However, the David Vs Goliath narrative permeated and, as evidenced in social media, this message was resonating with consumers. Uber was winning the PR war for hearts and minds.

Our strategy was to change this narrative by positioning a regulated taxi industry as one, unified advocate of consumer protection and to activate the ‘silent majority’ of satisfied customers to participate in the discussion of the important issues of personal safety, personal security and value for money.

Thornley Fallis developed a national campaign including proactive media relations underpinned by smart, compelling digital content hosted on a campaign website that would make positive stories, hard facts, resources and other information easy to find and share.

We published an open letter in daily newspapers to explain why, for the first time ever, Canada’s taxicab companies had joined forces to become the unified voice of the nation’s regulated taxi industry.

We negotiated an advance exclusive interview with the CBC/Radio Canada which delivered national, regional and local coverage through the CBC’s various platforms (radio, TV  & online) in both official languages.

In addition, our team negotiated both national and regional spokesperson interviews in national and local media outlets from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton.

Services Provided

  • Media campaign strategy development
  • Spokesperson training and coaching
  • Proactive and reactive media relations
  • Design and development of campaign website
  • Social media strategy and implementation
  • Monitoring and program evaluation

Giving the CBC the advance proved beneficial in gaining broad national, regional and local coverage in both English and French.

On the whole, media coverage of the campaign was balanced giving the both the Taxicab and Uber side of the story.  Our key messages were featured prominently and our ‘level playing field’ narrative was reflected in most media stories. In addition to the national media coverage, our story appeared in 61 media outlets serving all of the regional markets of Taxicab Operators Group’s members.

In the weeks immediately following the campaign the mayors of both Ottawa and Montreal publically denounced Uber calling it illegal. The City of Toronto launched an injunction against Uber. Two private members bills to strengthen ‘bandit taxi’ penalties were been introduced at Queens Park. The City of Ottawa has fined Uber drivers and the City of Edmonton has threatened to fine any Uber driver caught accepting payment.

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