All aboard: Exploring SF Bay Ferry on a Northern California familiarization tour
Article by Maurice Chaney, Northern CA Regional & Membership Chair


To foster connections and provide enriching experiences, CAPIO hosted a group of 26 members to visit SF Bay Ferry in mid-March. This marked the kickoff of a series of similar tours planned for the year.

Thomas Hall, the Public Information and Marketing Manager at SF Bay Ferry, guided us through an informative session covering the ferry’s illustrious history, its role in expanding water transit post-Loma Prieta, and its ongoing mission to provide essential transportation while alleviating road congestion and building for the future.

Thomas’ presentation delineated the essential components of their communication strategy, employing a diverse array of channels (paid, earned, social, and owned media) and approaches:

  • Strategy: They emphasize the unique attributes of their transit service, such as comfort, amenities, and positive ambiance. Message mapping addresses issues like traffic concerns, encourages passengers to share their experiences, and ensures a positive customer journey. Utilizing these points reinforces the value they offer.
  • Voice: Their communication style blends joy, whimsy, comfort, and accessibility. They incorporate maritime-themed viral memes to stay relevant and engage with current trends.
  • Challenges: They tackle communication barriers like the rise of remote work and sociopolitical dynamics within their service area, and they dispel the outdated notion of ferry rides solely for the affluent—aka bougie.

Their operational objectives in the future align closely with many governmental bodies, including expanding services, improving service delivery, and transitioning to clean energy sources to reduce carbon emissions. All of these buckets of opportunities will require new and different ways to engage the community to see value and maintain customer understanding and satisfaction.

To conclude our visit, we had the opportunity to experience a ferry ride firsthand, traveling from Alameda to San Francisco and back. It felt like our own chartered boat ride! Despite the cloudy weather, the journey provided breathtaking views of the bay and city skyline.

These tours allow members to engage in informal learning opportunities and connect with fellow communicators across the region, which are integral to their personal and professional growth.

We thank the staff at SF Bay Ferry for their hospitality and insightful presentations. With two more tours planned in Northern California, we encourage members to stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to explore and learn together. And if you have a familiarization tour idea in mind, regardless of your region, connect with your membership and regional chair to get the conversation going!

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