Last week, United Steel Workers of America Local 8751, the labor union representing Boston city school bus drivers, created a crisis situation for themselves and every parent and child in Boston when they refused to pick up 33,000 school children at their bus stops Tuesday morning. Their intention was to voice grievances over supposed safety and performance improvements, but their actions made them look heartless, selfish, and despicable. Okay, so you’re angry about certain aspects of your job. The way you decide to let everyone know about it is by taking it out on innocent children who are just trying to get to school? You shouldn’t need a Public Relations professional to tell you this plan isn’t going to work out in your favor. But, I don’t think the Boston bus driver’s union did a whole lot of thinking, or planning for that matter, before executing their surprise strike.
As a parent, I can only imagine the panic and worry I would have felt after arriving to work and receiving news my child’s bus driver had purposely left him or her stranded at the bus stop. I can also picture the anger and headache of having to rush home, come up with an alternative plan to get my child to school or miss a day’s work. Perhaps if the school bus labor union had held a planned rally or written a well thought out letter to the community they may have received sympathy, or at least made the community aware of why they were unhappy. Instead, they brought bad publicity to themselves, and managed to anger the very people who may have been able to remedy the grievances they were trying to protest.
As the school bus drama was unfolding last week, Uber Cabs, an up-and-coming smartphone cab company known for their sleek black cars, came up with a brilliant Public Relations plan amid the chaos. While most of Boston had come to a standstill, and parents and children were left improvising on ways to get to school, Uber Cabs swooped in and came to the rescue. They began advertising on their blog and social media sites that they were offering free rides for kids to get to school and back, no promo codes required, and no questions asked. The perception that Uber was swooping in to help out parents and children in a difficult situation generated lots of positive publicity for them, including coverage in the Boston Globe, local news stations, and social media. They did a great job of thinking quickly on their feet and taught other companies a lesson; always look for ways to turn a crisis into an opportunity.