Hurricane a Big PR Win for…The MTA?

Yes, we’re still a little overwhelmed by all the Sandy stories, but we’d like to bring you another example of a brand that scored a PR win during the storm. This story is even more relevant because the brand in question, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has a generally terrible reputation–the public almost universally sees it and the crucial service it provides as a necessary evil (again, we don’t have any nifty links, so readers outside the NYC area will just have to trust us on this).

And yet, a very interesting Buzzfeed piece reveals the organization’s up-to-the-minute social media documentation of the Sandy crisis and the public’s overwhelmingly positive response.

The MTA’s official Twitter feed, @MTAInsider, quickly provided information on service outages and changes well into the night each day this week, posting helpful resources like a constantly updated subway map. The feed also reported on less popular developments, like the fact that the group’s previously waived fees would go back into effect tonight at midnight. Even more impressive were the feed’s many links to the revealing, horrifying and sometimes beautiful photographs featured on its Flickr stream (with accompanying video clips).

Alongside the expected photos of group spokesmen “on the scene”, the page featured quite a few pics of the extensive damage the storm inflicted on area transit spots and the results of this crisis: long lines, shuttle buses, hectic commutes…basically every city dweller’s worst nightmare. The MTA’s communications team also frequently interacted with both its employees and the public at large, who passed along content to help the team provide a more accurate picture of the transit situation to the millions of residents who depend on its services. Did you know the MTA has a YouTube page? Neither did we.

We can’t see ourselves falling in love with the MTA anytime soon, but their communications team did an excellent job this week. The key point? They didn’t use the storm to make themselves look good. Instead of promotion, the organization used social media to provide its customers with…information! In the words of the director of external communications:

“We can’t fool anyone about what we’re doing and we’re not trying to. We’re not trying to tell people that everything’s great when it’s not.”

What a revelation! This changes everything!

Seriously, though: frame that quote.