With Corona, there was also a crisis in public transport in the German capital Berlin: passenger numbers fell by 70% - the BVG met the communication challenge with humour. Passengers and employees were to be convinced that safe bus and train travel was possible under consideration of the Corona rules.
Declining passenger numbers, uncertain employees: Corona hit BVG hard from February 2020. The transport company faced the challenge of communicating the protective measures transparently in order to give passengers and the more than 15,000 employees the feeling: BVG is safe.
In the first pandemic phase, the focus was on education and raising awareness of the protective measures. Communication goal: Together against Corona. In the second wave, the goals were expanded: passengers and employees were motivated to continue to comply with the measures. The latter often changed so that BVG flexibly adapted the communication to the respective situation and target group (employees, Berlin population, tourists). Appropriate to the seriousness of the situation, but always humorous.
BVG was concerned about the safety of its employees and passengers. At the same time, passenger numbers were to be increased through appropriate communication. A study by the Charité and the TU Berlin, according to which the aerosol concentration in public transport could be reduced by up to 80% by opening the doors at stops, formed the foundation for communicating the protective measures. But also to encourage the safe use of public transport. Data-driven information instead of gut feeling.
The communication should be clear, moving and informative. Message: Only together will we get through the pandemic. BVG established a strategy that worked across internal and external channels.
BVG informed passengers on site, via the press and social media. Stickers and posters with different motifs - corgis or a pony - called attention to the 1.50m distance in a humorous way. Announcements by Berliners in the underground stations were an authentic reminder of wearing a mask and funny clips went viral. Communication for employees was carried out through various channels to ensure that everyone was reached: an app, info teams, notice boards, intranet and communication from managers. The board of directors informed the team with video addresses via the app, and the drivers via radio.
Among employees, the infection rate was on average below the Berlin population, as was the sickness rate. Over 90 per cent of passengers comply with the mask requirement. Passenger numbers are also slowly levelling off again and the ironic, humorous communication style has undoubtedly contributed to BVG's image.
BVG reached many people during the Corona pandemic through its external and internal communication. On social media, the feedback has been positive. The distance notes with pony & co were diligently shared, a commercial against mask-opponents was viewed over 700,000 times and was awarded creation of the month. Central to the strategy: continuously review and adapt the communication.
In this way, it was possible to motivate passengers and employees positively on a daily basis.
Data driven information, such as the study by the TU and the Charité Berlin mentioned above, is essential to ensure informed and fact-based communication. The exchange with other cities and municipalities - on a national and international level - also seems to be central.
Simon Hüther (Head of BVG Communications) describes this as an important learning: "Networking and discussing best practices helps us because we all learn from each other. The exchange of data-driven information offers enormous development potential: ideally, there should be a tool into which all experience and data flow and from which all sides can then benefit." It is therefore important to use the collective knowledge of the network, to bundle experiences and make them easily accessible.
Komm. Leiter Unternehmenskommunikation (V-UK)
Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG)