The key components that make up a successful driver safety program include…
– An assessment of needs and performance shortfalls vis a vis a written policy
– Alignment with corporate social and employee safety goals
– Key training performance goals and metrics
– Active senior leadership support
– Engaging, relevant learning content and communications channels
– Continuous reinforcement of model behavior and performance with impactful consequences and rewards
– Ongoing marketing to gain driver acceptance, understanding, and advocacy
As a long-time fleet marketing specialist, I see that the same proven marketing concepts employed by companies to win customers and strengthen customer relationships can be applied to win drivers’ perceptions and behavior.
Adopting a marketing strategy to change driver behavior is the best way to make an emotional connection to the fleet safety (and other fleet operational goals) of the company. Without that link, drivers are likely to undermine the expectations set by the company because they simply don’t understand the value of conformance, do not see the relevance for them, are skeptical of the methodology, feel disengaged or, worse, hostile toward the dictates.
Marketing’s job is to change their thinking. When drivers care about and believe in the program, they’re motivated to work harder, engagement increases, and true advocacy is possible. Drivers share a sense of purpose and identity.
Unfortunately, in most companies, internal marketing is done poorly, if at all. While senior management recognizes the need to keep people informed about the company’s strategy and direction, few understand the need to convince employees of personal buy-in. What’s more, managers are untrained in marketing skills necessary to communicate persuasively, and they seldom have communications performance goals.
Communications is doled out to drivers in the form of memos, newsletters, and so forth, but the content is not designed to persuade them of the program’s value. Instead, the intent usually is to tell drivers what the company is doing, what they must do. There is little thought given to selling them on the ideas.
By applying the following principles of advertising to fleet driver communications, companies can guide drivers to a better understanding of, and even a passion for contributing to, the fleet vision.
Best Practice #1 – Put Change to Work for Marketing Your Program
Because change initiatives are uncomfortable for everyone, look for events and policy updates to justify new program or campaign initiatives. An increase in rear-end collisions, changes in high-risk driver remediation, a policy change related to distracted driving, a move to EVs are all likely reasons for communications.
Communications, that is, the sharing of information, is not enough. Marketing the value of the change, in other words, putting a marketing spin on the message that sells the value to driver and company will engage the recipient more than a dry recitation of the facts. Managers can direct people’s energy in a positive direction by clearly and vividly articulating what makes the change a win-win for the company and the employee.
Best Practice #2 – Bring the Campaign to Life for Drivers
The goal of a driver marketing campaign is very similar to that of any marketing campaign: to create an emotional connection to your company and its fleet program that transcends any one particular experience. In the case of drivers, you also want the connection to inform the way they approach their day-to-day work. You want them to share a vision and to consider whether or not they are supporting that vision in the decisions they make as drivers.
You do that by planning and executing a professional campaign to introduce and explain the messages and then reinforce them by weaving the goals into the makeup of the company. The messages should be directed at driver “touch-points,” the day-to-day interactions that influence the way drivers experience their workdays.
A professional campaign consists of a set of stages that starts with research and continues through the planning and execution of a marketing strategy designed to convince your employees of the merits of the initiative.
Internal market research might involve focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys. The results can be mapped out to create a big picture of the driver culture that shows where different subcultures reside and how information flows through the group. This preliminary step provides insight into what’s on drivers’ minds so that campaign message can be custom-fit.
Following research, the next stage is to plan the campaign. To overcome people’s natural cynicism, the campaign and the communications materials must ring true for drivers and be consistent with the company’s cultural underpinnings, reflecting and reinforcing what employees care about without jargon and grandstanding.
To be effective, look to be creative with the method of delivery. You want to surprise and win your audience. Dry, lifeless packaging, e.g., an internal memo or video attachment, will quickly be discarded and forgotten.
For example, there’s no substitute for personal contact from the organization’s highest levels. Indeed, failure to communicate at a personal level can undermine any campaign. Get management involved in campaign messaging – from executive meetings to video interviews with good production value (not just a standard Zoom call). Then reinforce the messaging over time. Remember there are two variables that marketers use to determine a campaign’s effectiveness – message frequency and campaign length. One and done is a lost cause.
Use what you learned in your research too. Give extra attention to likely resisters when you roll out the campaign and recruit influential drivers —the ones capable of shaping attitudes of those around them. By targeting these employees directly, they can help spread and reinforce the campaign.
Best Practice #3 – Continuous Feedback and Improvement
The final stage of a branding campaign is feedback from and engagement with drivers and those involved in the marketing channel. For large, geographically diverse organizations, the company intranet can be a superb facilitator of communication and interaction. Indeed, we’ve found that in companies that do not use intranets for candid dialog, employees inevitably turn to external Web sites to complain about the company. Create an interactive website to allow people to ask questions and view the replies to questions others had posted. Just don’t let the web become a substitute for leader face time and an “open doors.”
Because marketing campaign channels can become tired over a period of time as drivers tune them out, make every effort to incorporate the campaign into everyday job experiences. The best way to accomplish this is day-to-day managerial reinforcement of messaging. Face-to-face and incorporation of campaign messaging into regular meetings are less obtrusive and more spontaneous. By weaving the brand messages into employees’ everyday experiences, managers can ensure that promoted driver behavior becomes instinctive.
Adopting informal and impromptu meetings also ensures the continuous generation of feedback, which can help determine campaign success and provide focus to opportunities for improvement in campaign messages and delivery.
By incorporating the fleet operational vision into these driver touchpoints, companies, over time instill the vision into the driver experience to the extent that desired driver behavior becomes instinctive.
Amid the pressure to develop generate revenue and control costs, internal marketing to drivers can be overlooked. But if a company give drivers a reason to care, it can marshal valuable untapped resources to help it achieve its corporate goals.
ITA Communications delivers innovative marketing strategies and stellar results to fleet service providers. Learn more at www.itacommunications.com . Or, call the company at (215) 839-1306.