AT THE COMET, COMMUNICATING TAKES CENTER STAGE DURING PANDEMIC
(May 8, 2020) Columbia, SC – It has not been business as usual at Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The COMET). Pamela Bynoe-Reed reflected to last fall when she joined as Manager of Marketing and Public Information. No one could have predicted the current state of business due to the pandemic or how it has changed everyday life for everyone.
Bynoe-Reed is responsible for directing public relations, business development, marketing activities, and branding. She is The COMET's primary media spokesperson and liaison, oversees community partnerships and outreach events, and manages the MarCom, advertising and third-party vendor contracts. Her plate was full prior to COVID-19, but with this new state of normal, unpredictability has been added to the mix.
“One thing I’ve learned, is that it is vitally important to be nimble,” said Bynoe-Reed. “We’ve had to communicate transit changes to the public in real time. It’s a balancing act to navigate between operational responses to something you can’t control and communicating that in a clear concise manner through every channel we have available to as many people as possible because the community depends upon us.”
Serving the community through times of change has been a part of every role she has had in her career. She has more than 15 years’ experience driving marketing communications strategy and execution. Her previous roles were as a senior marketing strategist for natural gas, energy efficiency and community outreach advertising for SCANA Corporation, prior to its becoming Dominion Energy and as the Marketing and Planning Manager for Geriatrics at Prisma Health during its Palmetto Health days. In both roles, Bynoe-Reed gained crisis communications experience which, she says, has helped her to be prepared and strategic in her current role.
“Even as we were learning more about what impact COVID-19 would make on us, we were working with our advertising agency to redirect our brand awareness campaign,” said Bynoe-Reed. “We felt it important for people to know why The COMET was running and its importance to real people in everyday life.”
The campaign, which featured actual riders of The COMET, was reworked to emphasize the case for transit being essential. It included digital, print and outdoor advertising with captions that say, “Transporting essential employees, one seat at a time”, “Making sure they get what they need”, “Keeping the Midlands moving” and “Taking him there so he can help you.” Reassuring transit-dependent riders and educating the public and choice riders is at the forefront of The COMET’s communication strategy. It did not stop there, recognizing The COMET’s drivers was vitally important as they provide an essential service. They extended Transit Driver Appreciation Day with featured vignettes on social media. The previously scheduled national “Get on Board Day” was replaced with a “Sound the Horn” demonstration to recognize transit workers nationwide. The COMET participated with a spectacular show of the fleet sounding their horns at 3 p.m. on April 16.
“The COMET is pleased have Ms. Bynoe-Reed join the team to be the spokesperson for The COMET. With her many years of marketing and public information experience, she has stepped up the game regarding The COMET’s presence with the community. In light of the pandemic, she has worked hard and tirelessly to ensure that we are keeping our riders safe through creation of partnerships with DHEC as well as implementing various marketing strategies and highlighting the champions who helped get people from point A to B, our bus operators,” stated John Andoh, Executive Director/CEO of The COMET. “The COMET is very fortunate to have Ms. Bynoe-Reed to be The COMET’s new cheerleader to get people to give us a try,” added Andoh.
What’s next? A launch of The COMET Leadership Academy, a five-week transit intensive for community leaders, had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but new dates are being considered. Bynoe-Reed says that she looks forward to working even more closely with The COMET’s partners and looking at new ways to connect with riders in a safe, responsible manner.
Bynoe-Reed is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Columbia College.
About The COMET: The COMET is a service of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority and provides countywide public transit services on 34 fixed routes, four ReFlex services, vanpool service for commuters, subsidy programs with Uber and Lyft and DART for transportation to grocery stores and at night, ADA complementary paratransit service throughout Richland and portions of Lexington Counties and eight Blue Bike bikeshare stations in Downtown Columbia. The COMET transports approximately 2.8 million passenger trips a year on a fleet of 81 buses and vans. Transit services are provided under contract with Transdev, Enterprise Holdings, Lyft, Uber and Bewegen. For additional The COMET information, please call (803) 255-7100, TDD/TTY: 711 through the relay service, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.catchthecomet.org.
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