How brands can drive road-hogs off the road

Last week I attended a national road-hog festival at the junction of Gitanga Road and James Gichuru Road. The biggest and baddest road-hogs converged to show off their by-law defying antics much to the chagrin of the rest of us who just wanted to get from point A to point B without event. The participants managed to carve out 3 lanes either way on a single carriageway without the batting of eyelids. I was almost run over by a great big lorry, speeding down the pedestrian walkway as the driver rushed in to join the festivities. After I gained my composure I dialled the number on the back of the vehicle, which True Caller identified as belonging to a company domiciled in Nakuru. I wanted to report the careless behaviour of the driver to his employer but unfortunately the number rang unobtainable.

The mystery of road courtesy and why it has disappeared form our nation can be solved by our corporations because statistics show that commercial vehicles greatly out-number passenger cars and indicate that most vehicles are owned by companies. Therefore, this must be a good place to start if we are to discover the secrets.

In the United States, there are 830 cars for every 1,000 people and in Africa there are only about 25 cars for every 1,000 people and for this reason road safety has not even begun to be a problem for us in the scale of things. If we had the same type of vehicle density as the US we’ll have to multiply by 33 times the attendance at the road-hog convention I spoke of earlier, and then we’ll have a real problem on our hands. Fleet managers, as an example, will have to abandon the idea of time-centric logistics or any other type of transport management theory for that matter.

So, if you’re in the C-Suite or carry the type of corporate influence that gets people listening, I suggest that you get into the elevator, go down to the floor that hosts the drivers, riders and messengers staff room, and issue a directive stating that all and sundry should learn the Highway Code by heart or risk losing their heads. In case that doesn’t work you may want to try something else.

Instead, you will invite your marketing and external affairs teams into a brainstorming session to discuss the need to keep your drivers, staff and customers safe while on the road. The external affairs team will tell you that this fits well with the corporate values  which are emblazoned on the boardroom walls in the words ‘we care’. The marketers will tell you that they can incorporate it in the public relations budget as long as you use the initiative to gain positive visibility among your publics. The strategy would be simple, take a social responsibility approach to improving the performance of your transport staff and entire team through awareness of the Highway Code, and to make roads even safer by raising consciousness of the issue as a way of playing your part in improving the quality of life in the community.

You would then gather your staff into a training hall and introduce an authority in motoring who presents the benefits of safe motoring, adding elements of defensive driving, which they all need. After the staff event, your presenter will personally hand over a copy of the Highway Code to every member of the team. You may want to initiate a ‘safety moment’ (a two to five minute presentation on road safety) before every meeting as a routine that aims to change behaviour in the long run and to encourage advocacy for the cause among your staff.

At this point the marketers will remind you to use the initiative to gain positive publicity as a good corporate citizen. One way to do so is to fix posters and relevant desktop accessories in all your premises to keep the initiative top-of-mind. You may want to go further and place stickers below your brand logos on your vehicles that state that you and every member of your team supports road safety. It not only shows that ‘you care’ but it also works as an advocacy tool to enrol other corporates and the driving public at large into the movement.

If your company happens to own a taxi hailing app for taxi cabs and the precarious boda-bodas, it may be a good idea to include a certain clause in the enrolment contract that demands that every driver or rider has properly passed a driving test, understands the Highway Code and will adhere to it at all times.

At this point the news media will pick it up, and ditch the name-and-shame tactics which gets the road-hogs watching the bulletin every Sunday like sport, eagerly waiting to see their names in the lights. Instead the reporters will divert to a more positive route of highlighting the determined ‘charity begins at home’ initiatives by corporates to curb road carnage. That will be your cue to develop public service announcements on road safety and together with the media houses, bloggers and billboard companies promote behavioural change while gaining positive visibility. At the end, everybody will be a winner because the roads will be safer, drivers kinder, cyclists confident, pedestrians happy, brands visible, corporates caring, and of course the road-hogs can shift their energy into more useful activities.

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