Sunday, December 17, 2006

Why are the best ideas always the most simple ones? They are the ideas you can't believe haven't already been thought of.

My colleague and I were recently the generators of such an idea for a client. Co-op Cabs wanted Toronto's City Councillors to better understand the woes of the public transit system, mainly the problem created by heavy traffic.

Reminiscent of a childhood essay on "being a teacher for a day", the idea was simply to partner Councillors with Co-op Cab drivers, cruise the streets and feel the pain of Toronto's congestion from a different perspective.

A number of councillors were interested in our proposal. Rob Ford was the first. We alerted the media announcing the initiative and inviting them to come along. The phone rang off the hook. Media were actually fighting to get into the cabs. Ahhhh.

But what is the difference between good PR and great PR? Good PR is getting solid media hits, making sure messages are incorporated into interviews and that reputations are shaped and preserved. Great PR, however, is when you are able to enter into the public discussion. When people are chatting about what they read or saw at the water cooler, when newspaper editorial sections select the campaign as the subject of their writings, etc.

This campaign was great not because three TV stations and five papers covered the story (including a full page in the National Post and quarter page in the Toronto Star!). It is because of a CBC radio show - I happened to catch - that was interviewing the head of the Transportation Committee. The show host wanted to know if he felt he needed to go on these rides to get a sense of the city's congestion problems. When I thought it couldn't get any better, the program asked cabbies to call in with their thoughts on whether more councillors should take advantage of Co-op's program.

To think no one thought of this yet!

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