'We're totally legal, like totally legal, and the government is telling us to shut down. And you can either do what they say or you can fight for what you believe' – Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber.
The world is now split into two types of people those who put their hand up in the air to hail down a taxi; and those who get their phone out and launch the Uber app.
Uber is a ridesharing service. The company uses a smartphone application to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire.
And white users of Uber are enjoying their personal chauffeurs the introduction of Uber into the Australian market has created plenty of controversy.
The Australian taxi lobby complained and went on strike. Politicians were caught using Uber instead of taxis, despite being illegal at the time – even the NSW Shadow Minister for Transport Penny Sharpe used it. The business industry embraced it (which inadvertently boosted Uber use).
While many knew of the emerging battle in the Australia, a similar battle was occurring in New York.
Since its inception in the New York in 2011, Uber had experienced significant growth year after year until mid-2015.
Enter New York City Council.
In July 2015 the Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed legislation which would limit the accelerating growth of the company.
Legislators believed the growth of Uber was leading to increased congestion in the city.
Proposed legislation would restrict the ability of hire vehicle companies with 500 or more to increase their number of vehicles by one per cent annually.
At the time, Uber was adding 25,000 new users a week and New York was one of the company’s most profitable markets. Understandably the company’s executives were not so receptive to the proposed legislation.
And so began a multi-million dollar political fight between a company with an estimated value of $62.6 billion and the New York City Administration. If Uber was to continue experiencing such significant growth in the world’s most iconic city, it would have to pull off a carefully thought out political assault on the Mayor of New York.
Uber a company, whose business success stems from technology innovation, based its communication efforts around the very tool that gathered millions of customers world-wide: its app.
Along with traditional communication tactics, Uber altered its app to notify New York customers of the proposed legislation and it introduced a new feature which informed Uber users of how long users would be waiting for an Uber vehicle if the proposed legislation was passed.
Needless to say, customers became disturbed by this possible reality, and the Mayor’s office received a total of 17,000 emails in opposition to the proposed legislation.
In August 2015 the battle between Uber and New York Council ended.
Uber’s victory and its significance
External threats are always on the horizon and it is how well a company can manage an issue or crisis that determines its long term success.
Uber’s victory through its use of technology and innovation is the perfect example of how the accumulation of public support is extremely powerful for a particular cause. In the case of Uber, large public support for the service and directing that support towards the Mayor’s office was the company’s most effective weapon in the fight.
Uber successfully mobilised a group of devoted customers, and turned customer support to political pressure.
It is well known that technology is changing the way organisations communicate with key stakeholders, however it is also imperative that companies incorporate technology in the way they accumulate public support for various reasons or issues.
Organisation that fail to recognise the importance of technology when trying to mobilise a desired group of stakeholders are now at a severe disadvantage to those which do.
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