How local businesses plan to tackle Metro woes

Clare Flannery of MDB Communications explains how businesses in the DC region have banded together to improve metro. She says the Metro Now Coalition is a sign ...


One of the most important conversations going on in the field of entrepreneurship in the D.C. region is how businesses can use their voices not just to improve the region, but also draw in new innovators. One woman who is very much in the middle of leading that charge from the standpoint of raising awareness is our next guest, Clare Flannery, director of PR and media strategy at MDB Communications. You may not have met Clare before, but she’s been involved in leading the profile for developing our region’s future, working with groups such as the 2030 Group, and now the Metro Now Coalition.


ABERMAN: Well, tell us about the Metro Now Coalition. What is it, and what is it about?


FLANNERY: The Metro Now Coalition is a group of regional business organizations who have come together to fix Metro, now. As we all know, Metro is the lifeblood of this region’s transportation infrastructure, and everyone recognizes the need to get this done now. So, these groups have all come together to ensure that this gets done this legislative cycle. Basically, it’s the Federal City Council who have been huge in leading the charge around Metro for years as well as the Greater Washington Partnership, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the 2030 Group, as well as the Northern Virginia Chamber, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and a number of other leading organizations and advocacy groups from across the region have really come together to ensure that we have a collective voice around this issue, and are working together to really use that voice to educate and influence legislators around why this is so important for our economic competitiveness and in the long term viability of the region.


ABERMAN: What I find important about the Metro Now Coalition is that we have, for years, had different groups, like Federal City Council, 2030 Group, or the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and various other organizations pursuing what I would say a more narrow organizational strategy. And what allows is it allows the politicians and the policymakers to basically play groups off against each other, or ignore them. I’m not aware of a situation, maybe since the Olympics, where these organizations have all come together to advocate as one voice. This seems like a big deal to me.
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FLANNERY: This is a really big deal. I think over the past couple years, we’ve really seen regionalism rise as an issue. And now it’s a widely accepted concept. I think, through the Metro Now Coalition, we’re seeing people move from, olay, this is a concept that we accept, to, how do we actually move regional priorities forward? How do we drive regional action? And I think everyone is understanding that if we work together, we’re stronger.


ABERMAN: One of the aspects of this that I’d like to turn to now, which I think is very significant, is your particular background is in marketing PR, and you’re at an organization, MDB, that started out as an advertising business. Are we seeing the emergence of what I’ll call a DC model for media relations? This seems to me to be advocacy, advertising, PR, all at once. Is this something that DC’s going to be really good at?


FLANNERY: I think so. I think collective voice and collective power is very, very strong and, in today’s media landscape, you really have to have an integrated communication strategy, and content PR, in a way, and branding are more important than ever to push your message out there, and forward. Because you have Twitter, you have LinkedIn, you have Facebook, you have news organizations, you have radio, TV.  There are just so many mediums, and there’s so much noise out there. So, the more people who are getting your message out there, he stronger it will be.


And through a coalition, and some of the stuff we do with Metro Now, is to streamline that messaging, so everyone is on message around a particular issue. So there aren’t mixed messages, but it also allows people to take the core messaging chain and apply it to their organizations. So, when it comes to Metro, why is this important to me? Any organization can take the messaging that’s developed and say, you know what, that’s actually right. Why does that matter for my organization? And I think they’re sending newsletters out that have that in it. They they are putting those messages out on their Twitter, and to their audiences. So, if you just did it by yourself. you’ll only get one hit, and maybe a smaller target audience. Whereas if you expand it, and have so many people amplifying the same message, it’s a lot stronger.


And I do think the model is kind of changing for PR and advertising at MDB. I think we have a really great team, and a really great opportunity to merge the PR capabilities as well as the advertising, and branding. And, especially in this market, as you know, MDB did things like Neighborhoods Campaign, DC Cool.


ABERMAN: As we grow our region, we have a enormous opportunity to drive change by just doing what we’re good at. Clare Flannery, director of PR and media strategy at MDB Communications. Thanks for joining us.


FLANNERY: Thanks, Jonathan.


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