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Free Advice

July 29, 2014

131500 trainsIt’s always good to see your free advice acted on. However, I’m not sure if I can claim direct credit for this one. More than likely it was one of the recommendations made during a number of projects costing CityRail more than $1 million in consultancy and design fees, market research and testing (see “Bouncing ball branding cost transport $1m-plus” by Jacob Saulwick, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 2013).

Headlining the consultancy project was a rebrand from CityRail to Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink, which I think has worked really well for the organisation.

The free advice I gave to what was then CityRail was in a post back in 2011, “131500 trains: Too Much of a Bad Thing?” (image left from the original post). At the time, CityRail was channelling all the updates on the status of the network through one Twitter account, @131500trains, but the constant deluge of bad news about delayed services and breakdowns was having a massively detrimental effect on the organisation’s brand and reputation. My recommendation was:

A better approach would be to provide more targeted and specific information to those that need it. For example, I’m generally only interested in what’s going on the Southern Highlands and Airport & East Hills lines – so it would make more sense to have a separate Twitter account for each line for me to follow.

In February 2014, Transport NSW set up seven separate Twitter accounts for each of the seven major Sydney Trains lines, and three accounts for NSW TrainLink – North, South and West – see http://www.transportnsw.info/en/travelling-with-us/keep-updated/social.page. (My local line, @TrainLinkSouth first tweeted on the 14th of February: https://twitter.com/TrainLinkSouth/statuses/434173242686050304.)

The key point to make here is that you need to balance up the public service that you are providing via social media – in this case a really important one to keep public transport users informed on the status of the network – with the reputational damage that can be caused by the aggregation of ‘bad news’. If the end result is that fewer passengers are choosing to ride on NSW trains, you need to change your approach.

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