PR Community: Let’s Help Save America

Can PR Fix This holeThe hidden peril of the snow that has buried the northeast is the potholes that come out as winter melts away. Of course, this year the potholes are already out in full force. Last week, while driving in Newton, Mass., I saw a pothole on a concrete portion of a main road that revealed the broken rebar underneath. Despite an entry into the city app, it remains unfilled as I write this.

The problem of maintenance within America’s crumbling infrastructure is enormous, one that is rising to the level of a national crisis. Our bridges are on the brink of failing, our power lines lie above ground where they’re subject to the wrath of weather, and our transit lines are inadequate to handle the riders they have today.

One issue to blame for this problem may be around the PR of a maintenance project. Writing on CityLab, Eric Jaffe points out that maintenance projects just don’t attract the same kind of attention that big, new “Ribbon Cuttings” do. So when it comes to political and popular support, a new road, transit line or bridge get the love.

Of the many reasons infrastructure repairs get snubbed for construction, big public ribbon-cutting ceremonies that come with fresh projects—but not with stale maintenance—is near the top of the list. By the nature of their limited tenure and uncertain futures, politicians care more about attaching their name to a new project than extending the life of someone else’s old one.

Here in Boston lots of fanfare is behind the extension of the Green Line into Somerville, even as the T itself has deferred maintenance of years. The Boston Globe recently ran a graphic detailing the ages of trains running on the tracks and the T chief (who has since resigned) mentioned in a press conference that no one would take out their old car, but the T is forced to take out old trains.

Ahead lies one of the biggest “Ribbon Cuttings” there is in the Boston 2024 Olympic bid. A big selling point from local officials is that this will “upgrade” our infrastructure–not just for Boston but for surrounding communities as well. But even if we put in the money to fix and upgrade for the Olympics, what happens in 2034 when this infrastructure ages and suffers from another decade of “deferred” maintenance? Detractors of the Boston Olympic bid point to other cities in which aging venues are little more than expensive ruins littering the landscape.

If PR helped create the problem, then PR can help solve it. It’s easy to help promote something big like the Olympics, but how do you build support for the everyday needs of maintenance?

Now here is my question for the PR community: how can we make maintenance sexy?


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Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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