This is an excerpt of Cision’s new e-book Innovation Imperative. Here learn how the TTC improved brand perception and public engagement by making sure its communicators were H.O.T.

Trust is the foundation of every great relationship. When a public organization like the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) loses that, it can impact a city or government for years to come. Trust is measurable and can be lost in an instant.

To maintain that trust with the community, TTC’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications Brad Ross says that corporate communicators need to be H.O.T.–honest, open and transparent.

In 2010, the City of Toronto faced a $100 million class action lawsuit levied by aggrieved business owners along the St. Clair street car line after mismanagement of the upgrade and repair project of the line by a third party contractor that caused delays and thereby affecting revenue for the businesses along the line.

“The TTC’s portion arrived on-time and on-budget, but there was a misconception that it was [entirely] our project,” said Ross.

Since then, the organization has launched a new community relations framework called the Good Neighbours Policy, which outlines how the TTC must consult and communicate with affected communities before and during construction.

At the core of this strategy is listening to and measuring the community’s response to the group’s work.

How to measure H.O.T.:

The TTC uses Twitter, email alerts, video screens at rail stations, and its employees at transit stations to directly inform passengers about ongoing delays in the system. One of the greatest challenges the transit authority faces is measuring the community’s response. Here are five tactics Ross uses to overcome that hurdle and determine the effectiveness of his team’s transparency efforts.

lb-11. Eliciting quarterly customer satisfaction surveys

By regularly doing this type of survey, the TTC can build a series of benchmarks for future internal evaluation. Any brand can do this. Some use surveys such as a Net Promoter Score, or NPS, to evaluate the likelihood customers would recommend a product to their family or friends while others take the grassroots option of SurveyMonkey.

Deploying these takes time and the findings may surprise you, but if you don’t know about a problem you can never fix it.

7CanadianComm_Graphics-022. Benchmarking social media engagement

Even if you don’t ask your customers whether they are happy with your service, it doesn’t mean they won’t let you know. Ross’s team closely monitors Twitter, the go-to platform for most customers to voice their immediate concerns, on real-time nearly 24-hour  basis. An increase in complaints is a strong indicator that a service disruption has not been communicated to the public effectively.

Social listening allows you to identify service issues and direct concerns to the appropriate service channel immediately.

3. Monitoring call volumes into TTC information lines

7CanadianComm_Graphics-17Don’t forget about phone calls! Every organization has customer service lines and, as professional communicators, you should be aware of the volume and content of those calls. Every touch point between a brand and its customers should be measured as an opportunity to bring value and build trust.

As an example when the TTC’s new construction project, the Leslie Barns kicked up dust in the summer, resident complaints were met with immediate action.
(Click to tweet)

“We delivered air conditioners to those affect so they could close their windows and sill stay cool,” said Ross.

The TTC could do that because it listened and responded. Put data behind the types of issues that arise with your brand and identify problems that you have to solve.

lb-24. Tracking direct person-to-person consultations

Consultation is the bedrock for a public organization’s engagement with residents. Measure the number of people who attend a consultation, record the issues raised and evaluate how these two are interrelated. Under the Good Neighbours Policy this meant creating a staffed site office  that featured all the information about the Leslie Barns project and had team members available to answer the community’s questions and take-in feedback.By having staff on-site, the city could be immediately aware of any issues as soon as they arose and relationships could be built with community members to make the situation less adversarial.

Not every aspect of a project can be up for the community to decide, but measuring the content provided by the community can direct future communication and awareness efforts. When you communicate uncomfortable truths clearly and consult with the public earnestly, you will face less vitriolic opposition.

Want more advice on how to engage positively with the public? Read Cision Canada’s new e-book.

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About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

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