Shout about the benefits

10 Dec 2014
Talking point: PR offensive needed for Bayonne Bridge works. Credit: Artemesia V

Talking point: PR offensive needed for Bayonne Bridge works. Credit: Artemesia V

As the year winds down, I am reflecting on a rather large missed opportunity. New York's radio stations, and their TV counterparts, have been quite diligent in announcing a weekend closure of the Bayonne Bridge for construction and closures during weekdays - all part of the “Raise the Roadway” project.

This bridge, and the raising of its roadway, is well known throughout the worldwide shipping and port community, including to readers worlds away who never made the trek between Bayonne (a port in New Jersey) and Staten Island (one of New York City's five boroughs).

Yet the world's port community, far flung though it is, may know more about the economic benefits offered by the Port of New York & New Jersey, than the locals who are mostly concerned about detours and noise (hence the work during the days).

In this space, and elsewhere in the shipping press, the varied disconnects between the shipping world and the rest of the world are often noted. Pardon the pun, but another such disconnect concerns communications.

The radio announcements, which follow the script laid out in the print articles, do indeed mention the $1.3bn cost of the bridge fix. Missing however, from these announcements is a mention of the potential benefits beyond the not insubstantial construction payrolls. Whether or not these regional benefits actually pan out, or not, is another question - I have my doubts (voiced here more than once), but that's not the point.

The relationship of our industry with the public is often a battle. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and other military men would implore gladiators to use whatever tools can be loaded into the kit. Potent ‘in your face’ public relations and repetitive messaging regarding benefits (many times the $1.3bn even by my very dour reckoning) seems to be missing here.

Yes, there have been various outreach efforts with the local community, discussing things like times of work, and routes for trucks. But this is no longer a time for your very bland ‘public service’ announcements, Port Authority-style.

A good salesman uses every touchpoint and interaction to paint a pretty picture. As I listen to my radio, I've been very disappointed and I hope that our industry can do better on the PR front in New York, and presumably elsewhere around the country.

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