Marketing and Outreach Tool

Strategy 1: Community Outreach

Activity: Develop Local Advisory Board(s)

Determine characteristics of specific groups in your community.

Seek different organizational positions, not only administrative heads, but people who work closely with anyone who uses public transit.

Recruit Board Members

  • Go to agency and community meetings.
  • Professionally network; follow up with contacts.

Develop a Stakeholder Contact List
This list should contain individuals and agencies with a stake in public transit. Some examples include:

  • Disability advocates
  • Assisted living centers
  • Employment centers
  • Educational institutes
  • Social service providers
  • Environmental groups

Establish a meeting schedule.

  • Keep the schedule consistent; confirm the next meeting date before ending current meeting.
  • Establish subcommittees if there is a need to address a specific issue or to avoid overwhelming the whole group.

Establish roles within the group.

  • Not all meeting responsibilities should fall on one person. Select a leader(s) from the public transit system and the community.
  • Consider establishing one transit “point-person” per agency or business that is the go-to person for meetings or to distribute materials when needed.

Activity: Create Community Feedback Forum(s)

Host a public forum for all stakeholders.

  • These can be held as meetings, online posts, etc.

Create a daily feedback system:

  • Telephone (toll-free number)
  • Website
  • Blog post
  • Postage-paid cards
  • Customer suggestion boxes
  • Email address
  • The feedback system could be on your website, a county website, or any websites where public information is posted. (For more information on developing a system website see Activity: Develop a Website)
  • A feedback system should be easily accessible by everyone; the Local Advisory Board should discuss a representative sample of comments.
  • Provide a follow-up response to the reporting party if requested.


  • Local agencies
  • Riders
  • General community
  • To encourage participation, offer a free ride coupon for completing the survey.

Activity: Publish a Newsletter

Select newsletter topics or themes.

  • Do this as often as needed. Consider having others mass distribute it via email or print (Example: Ask the agencies involved in the local advisory board to put transit information in their newsletters.)
  • In cases where suggestions or complaints have been addressed, include the resolution in the newsletter to show you are responsive to riders’ needs.

Ask stakeholders to contribute sections and success stories.
Stakeholders writing stories can be:

  • Riders
  • Agencies you work with
  • Your staff

Feature testimonials. (For more information on testimonials seeActivity: Embark on a Testimonial Campaign)

  • Testimonials should be a mix of different genders, ages, ethnicities, etc.
  • Interview “choice” riders (Choice riders are people that have a choice between using their own vehicle and public transit and they choose public transit).

Include a section with up-to-date information on service routes, hours, how to use system, and service statistics.

  • Statistics can include: number of rides given; number of miles driven; economic impact, etc.

Introduce employees and their job duties or feature an outstanding employee.

  • Rotate who is featured and highlight different positions.

Activity: Participate in Community Events

Develop a travel training program for riders.
Develop a travel training program for agencies that work with groups of potential riders

A travel training program for riders typically consists of:

  • Classroom Time – a presentation about how to use the public transit system, and
    Field Time – giving participants a chance to get on a vehicle and use it themselves.
  • Once a travel training program is available, share it with groups that might benefit from more knowledge about the public transit system.

Once a travel training program is available, share it with groups that might benefit from more knowledge about the public transit system.

Possible target groups include:

  • Human service agencies
  • Employment centers
  • Disability advocates
  • Seniors
  • Schools
  • See Stakeholder Contact List for other possible target groups.

Activity: Participate in Targeted Outreach

Identify and maintain strong relationships with businesses and social service agencies that work closely with specific groups of people.

  • Developing a Stakeholder Contact List is an effective strategy to see which businesses and human service agencies have a greater need for public transit.

Possible groups for targeted outreach include:

  • Senior citizens
  • Medical providers
  • Low-income families
  • People with disabilities
  • Focus on groups that may be more transit-dependent.

Mobilize businesses and human service agencies to become advocates for public transit for the people they work with.

  • Establish service contracts with businesses and human service agencies whose patrons use public transit often, are dependent on it, or would benefit from using it.

Strategy 2: Branding

Activity: Develop or Enhance an Image

Develop a logo or determine an existing logo’s impact.

  • This should be an easily recognizable graphic related to public transit.
  • Use a magnet for the graphic if there are restrictions on vehicle alteration.
  • If you change your logo, update everything simultaneously.

Fleet vehicles should have a coordinated color scheme.

  • The color scheme should be unique and bring positive attention to the vehicle.
  • Important: This may not be an option for federally/state funded vehicles; check grant restrictions.

Develop a slogan or tagline

  • This should be a catchy, memorable phrase communicating a positive quality of your system.
  • The local advisory board should be consulted for input. (For more information on Local Advisory Boards see Activity: Develop Local Advisory Boards)

Activity: Actively Manage Your Image

Don’t allow stereotypes to tarnish your transit system.

  • A common perception of public transit is that is for a certain segment of the population (seniors, people with disabilities, the low income, etc). Work on dispelling this stereotype.
  • Embark on campaigns to make your transit system more appetizing to the general public.

Push the message that your system is NOT a form of specialized transit, but that it is for EVERYBODY!

  • In many situations, when people see a transit vehicle in the rural areas they believe that it is only available to a certain segment of the population. Clearly express that this service is for everyone.

Strategy 3: Rider Information and Awareness

Activity: Develop a Rider Mobility Guide

Give all essential information for the rider to obtain a ride.
Information in this section of the Rider Mobility Guide should explain:

  • Who can use the system
  • When the service is available
  • What kind of vehicle will pick up the rider
  • Where the rider will be picked up
  • Fare and method of payment
  • How to schedule a ride
  • How to request a return ride
  • Instructions for multiple destination trips
  • Policies for trips outside service area
  • Who to contact with additional questions.

Include the public transit system’s policies.

  • Include cancellation policy, minimum notification rules, and consequences for late cancellations or no shows.

Include people or programs that will provide additional assistance.

  • Include phone numbers of any social service agencies that may supplement a portion of the trip.
    Provide information on the process of scheduling Medicaid approved trips.

Provide all transit vehicles with an adequate amount of Rider Mobility Guides.

  • The driver should carry ample amounts of the guide with them at all times.
  • Install racks to hold several guides.
  • Pitch old and worn guides at the beginning of each shift. Keep a clean image of your transit system.

Post the Rider Mobility Guide in high traffic locations, including, but not limited to:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Churches
  • Community centers
  • Domestic violence and drug abuse programs
  • Employment offices
  • Financial assistance groups
  • Food banks
  • Grocery stores
  • Hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers
  • Independent/assisted living centers
  • Libraries
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Popular community locations
  • Public housing
  • Schools
  • Track distribution:
  • What types of materials are distributed;
  • Keep track of where and whom materials are distributed to; and
  • How many are distributed to each location.

Distribute broadly.

Place throughout all of the service areas involved. All communities should have access to a guide.

Create a “Regional Mobility Guide” section.
(Developing a Regional Mobility Guide section is only necessary if multiple public transit systems exist in the area; it provides the community with the most complete information regarding regional transit agencies.)

  • Provide contact numbers.
  • Include all public transit systems’ phone numbers, website, or email address. Consider including social services agencies that may supplement a portion of the trip.
  • Coordinate between public transit systems.
  • Contact all applicable public transit systems to make this a coordinated effort.
  • Develop strong relationships with other public transit systems to provide riders with streamlined travel.

Activity: Develop a Website

Provide contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses.

  • Include your transit system’s phone number and email address.
  • Consider including social service agencies that may supplement some portion of trip.
  • Determine if it is the responsibility of the rider to contact the social service agency or whether it is the responsibility of your transit system.
  • Identify whether the social service agency contacts your transit system to determine funding the ride or whether your transit system contacts the social service agency to determine the funding of the ride.

Update frequently.

Unlike the printed guides which should not contain time-sensitive information, the website may contain time-sensitive information.

Include a “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)” section.

Include all important information regarding your transit system. Include any updates immediately.

Provide information on days without service.

List days when service will not be provided. If additional closings occur, such as a weather related issues, list possible reasons and notification procedures.

Choose a web address that is easy to remember; for example:

The web address should be easy to remember and contain part of the public transit system’s name in it.

Post your transit system’s website link to the following external websites:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Churches
  • City, townships, or village government
  • County government
  • Human service organizations
  • Libraries
  • Local newspapers
  • Other public transit systems
  • Schools
  • Keep track of where these links are posted; check links often to ensure they are working properly.
  • Track the number of visits to these websites and/or those clicking on your link.
  • Some websites are more popular than others. Obtain permission from these sites to post your link.
  • If developing a website is not an option, post an online version of your brochure to some of these websites.

Check your website accessibility:

  • Use federally approved “WAVE” website to check on accessibility issues for people with physical disabilities.
  • List the “Google Translate” link so that users can translate your website into other languages.
  • WAVE is a free resource that can be used to diagnose accessibility issues and explain ways to fix them.
  • Google Translate should only be used as a short term solution. Professional translation should be inevitably sought out.
  • Google Translate is a free resource that will translate website into any language the visitor selects. It does not automatically translate PDFs or other documents found on your website.

Activity: Use Social Networking Sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Develop a fan page for Facebook, join a Twitter Group, or join other social networking sites.

Many people and organizations already use Facebook; however, you may have to ‘show’ people where to sign up for newsfeeds.

Include a forum for discussion.

  • Appoint someone from your transit system to maintain a web presence and read postings daily.
  • Reply to questions immediately.

Update time-sensitive service information as soon as possible.

When there is little information to update, feature a rider or staff story occasionally to inspire people to use the public transit system.

Actively participate in pages related to yours.

This is an effective way to reach out to potential riders.

Strategy 4: Media Advertising

Activity: Maintain Strong Media Relations and Public Relations

Appoint an official spokesperson.

  • Keep an open mind. Negative stories tend to get greater publicity than positive stories. Do not make an enemy out of the media.
  • Invite the media to your Local Advisory Board meetings and/or share information after meetings to keep them updated. (For more information on Local Advisory Boards seeActivity: Develop Local Advisory Boards)

Use public access television.

  • Using public access television can be a cost-effective and sometimes free way to share information about your transit system.

Organize a brief public service announcement.

  • In service areas with diverse groups of people consider having this translated to other common languages.

Participate in an on-going advertising campaign.

  • Find ways to split the cost of advertising with mutually beneficial programs.

Make attempts to speak on weekly radio shows to explain impact of public transit on the community.

  • This should be a task for the official spokesperson.
  • Always have a brief service announcement ready.

Activity: Advertise the Public Transit System

Acquire ad space in the newspapers, newsletters, and church bulletins.

  • Newspapers may allow advertisement for free or at a discounted price.
  • Notify the newspaper during promotional events and ask them to report on it.
  • Link public transit to local news and share the information with reporters.

Purchase underwriting on public radio stations.
If you serve an area that speaks different languages, have advertising translated.
Purchase billboard advertisement space.
Billboards are more effective in areas where there are major roadways that are well-traveled.

Post fliers at:

  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Churches
  • Community centers
  • Employment offices
  • Food banks
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Independent/assisted living centers
  • Libraries
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Popular community locations
  • Public housing
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Schools

Track distribution:

  • Keep track of where and whom materials are distributed to; and
  • How many are distributed to each location.

Use free community event calendars for event promotion.

Most small communities are happy to allow for event promotion. It is a benefit to the community.

Have your website link posted on websites transit riders are likely to visit such as:

  • Any transportation related sites
  • School sites (as long as there are no issues with school buses)
  • County sites
  • Community sites
  • Chamber of commerce sites
  • Ask for visitor statistics from the websites you wish to post a link with.
  • If possible, ask for a count to be done of how many people click on your link from other sites.

Activity: Participate in Public Speaking Events

Offer presentations to community groups on how to use your transit system.
Community group presentations should be a continual activity; often evaluate its effectiveness.

Participate in on-going public speaking opportunities.

Seek out organizations to speak with, possible venues include:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Civic groups
  • Community centers
  • County board
  • Fairs
  • Schools
  • Senior and public housing
  • The organizations represented on the Local Advisory Board.

Host booths at:

  • Business expos
  • Parades or county fairs
  • Health and informational fairs
  • Local entertainment events
  • Senior citizen events

Plan ahead of time and bring enough materials and resources with you.
Target your brochures, giveaways, etc. to the particular audience.

Activity: Embark on a Testimonial Campaign

Obtain testimonials from riders/beneficiaries of the public transit system.

  • Invite anyone who benefits from your transit system; include relatives of riders to describe the importance or impact of the system for their loved one(s).
  • Testimonials should address what transit service(s) rider uses and how they use it.
  • Maintain confidentiality among those that give testimonials. Gain signed permission forms before using anyone’s information and do not use last names.
  • Additional sources may include:
  • Business owners
  • Caseworkers
  • County board members
  • Parents

Pay special attention to “choice riders.”

These are people that have a choice and choose public transit over other modes of travel. These riders can be more convincing to those not using public transit because they don’t have to use it, but use it because they choose to.</p?

Obtain testimonials from drivers/dispatchers.

Drivers and dispatchers deal with riders on a daily basis and know the issues riders face the best.

Obtain testimonials from volunteer drivers/dispatchers.

Use volunteer drivers and dispatchers to gain support for more drivers if needed.

Place testimonials in newspaper, websites, etc.

If the rider would like, place their picture with the testimonial to give a “face” to public transit.

Strategy 5: Customer Service

Activity: Develop a Customer Feedback System

Provide a customer feedback system on your website. (For more information on website development see Activity: Develop a Website)

  • Allow the rider to choose if they wish to comment anonymously or if they wish to provide their contact information.
  • If the rider gives their contact information, follow-up with them immediately to show that their concerns are being investigated.
  • Include an option for the rider to “recognize” a good driver. Include this recognition in the internal newsletter. (For more information on internal newsletters see Activity: Market Internally)

Distribute customer satisfaction cards on all of the transit vehicles and with all of the drivers.

  • Provide a locked comment drop box on the transit vehicle for the rider to share their comments.
  • Allow the rider to choose if they wish to comment anonymously or if they wish to provide their contact information.
  • If the rider gives contact information, follow-up with them immediately to show that their concerns are being investigated.
  • Include an option on the card for a rider to “recognize” a good driver. Include this recognition in the internal newsletter. (For more information on internal newsletters see Activity: Market Internally)

Activity: Market Internally

Inform employees/volunteers about the activities in which your transit system is engaged.

  • Have meetings and provide information.
  • Help them to understand what they do is important.
  • Thank employees and volunteers for the things they do that you appreciate and value.

Distribute an internal newsletter.

Use newsletters to inform and motivate employees/volunteers.

Reward employees/volunteers for safety and good customer service.

Providing incentives to those employees and/or volunteers with high performance encourages all to go beyond their job duties.

Provide an opportunity for driver input in a round-table discussion.

Conduct monthly/quarterly meetings to discuss service issues pertaining to riders. Identify service problems and develop ways to reduce them.

Activity: Administer Rider and Non-Rider Surveys

Conduct surveys annually.

If financially feasible, hire a survey agency to conduct surveys occasionally. This reduces bias.

Explore several types of surveys:

  • On-board
  • Mail
  • Web-based
  • Telephone

On-board surveys obtain in-depth answers and are an excellent way to obtain testimonials, but are the most time-intensive, and more costly. (For more information on testimonials see Activity: Embark on a Testimonial Campaign)
Aside from on-board surveys, mail surveys are the most expensive.
Web-based and telephone surveys can gather a larger survey responses at a cheaper cost.

Determine rider wants and needs.

Document and create solutions to meet needs.

Analyze results and identify opportunities to improve.

  • Discuss results with your staff, your advisory board, and ask for peer agency advice and ideas.
  • Track improvement from year-to-year.

Make surveys anonymous.

Have a “drop box” instead of having the rider hand the survey to the driver.

Strategy 6: Additional Marketing Strategies

Activity: Sell Advertising Space on Transit Vehicles

Offer advertising space inside and outside of transit vehicles to local business. 

There are “frames” that can be placed on the insides and outsides of transit vehicles to place placards for advertising businesses.
Offer “vehicle wraps” to local businesses.

  • Vehicle wraps cover a portion of the transit vehicle advertising for a business.
  • Have information available about benefits to bring to area businesses to encourage their participation.
  • Important: Check local ordinances; some communities have strict laws against the use of vehicle wraps.