Chris Watts

VP/Director of Public Relations | High-Voltage PR

Last week, nearly 60% of Marion County voters cast their ballots in favor of expanded mass transit.  It was an Election Day victory more than a decade in the making, and a monumental step closer to a time when transit can be a convenient, practical choice for the average Indianapolis resident to get to work, school and other daily errands.

CVR’s Public Transit Pedigree

CVR has been involved in outreach and advocacy around the transit issue on several fronts.  We served as the agency partner for Indy Connect, the public sector effort that responded to popular and private sector demand for transit options by devising a regional plan and launching a massive outreach campaign.

To this day, Indy Connect is the largest educational effort of its kind in the Indianapolis market – hundreds of neighborhood meetings, aggressive social media (and this was circa 2010, when interactive community engagement was a more recent innovation), a multi-faceted campaign that included everything from outdoor advertising to "Indy Connect Day" at the Indiana State Fair.

Indy Connect was wildly successful at building public awareness and gathering feedback on the "big picture" blueprint for regional transit.  But when it was time to adapt the Indy Connect approach into a realistic plan for Marion County, the task fell to IndyGo.  CVR was selected to support the city bus system’s marketing needs, including public education around the Marion County Transit Plan and the Red Line (the federally-funded, first rapid transit route envisioned in the plan).

CVR’s scope of work again ran the gamut from organizing meetings, creating online, interactive tools to guide citizens through the plan (including an Instagram "map" of the Red Line that allowed users to trace the route and plunge into images of the individual neighborhoods along the corridor), public service advertising and a strong earned media push.

But most relevant to the vote’s outcome, CVR is the Indy Chamber’s marketing and PR partner – which includes playing a supporting role in advocacy efforts.  The local business community had spent years at the Statehouse and City-County Building lobbying for mass transit to help connect workers and employers, spur neighborhood redevelopment and make Indianapolis more economically competitive.

Years of Work Becomes a 6-Month Sprint

During the push for the referendum and the final charge towards November 8 after it secured a place on the ballot, CVR helped Indy’s corporate and civic leaders make the case for transit on the editorial pages of the Indy Star, IBJ and Recorder, in interviews across print and broadcast outlets, and through social media and direct communications with a growing network of partner organizations and grassroots supporters.

We helped create an online home for the grassroots effort and continued to create pro-transit content and publicize a growing list of high-profile supporters as the fall campaign intensified.  And even though the referendum wasn’t expected to compete in earned media attention with the bruising campaigns for President, U.S. Senator and Governor, the drumbeat of positive messages finally paid off at the polls.

Indy Connected

It’s not typical that a marketing agency can help champion one cause for almost ten years, across multiple client relationships.  But CVR isn’t the typical agency.  Kevin has called us a “100-year-old start-up,” because we work to stay agile and innovative, bringing a fresh perspective to our clients’ challenges.  But our longevity has its benefits, too:  We’re proud to be an Indianapolis agency – we love our city…when our city succeeds, so do we.

So we jump at the chance to support issues like mass transit that keep Indy moving forward.  And as the transit plan moves towards final approval by the City-County Council, our team will be there with fingers crossed – thumbing out another tweet or blog post with our other hands.

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