NMEDA Plans for National Mobility Awareness Month

How much impact could an industry niche have if it combined stakeholders’ resources and created a month-long, high-energy, national campaign?

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), automotive OEMs, adaptive equipment manufacturers, dealers and clinicians are getting ready to find out.

May 2012 will be the first-ever National Mobility Awareness Month, and NMEDA (nmeda.com) and its partners will be using those 31 days to teach the public about adaptive automotive equipment and the professionals who make up the industry.

The awareness month project is far ranging and ambitious in scope, one that seeks to turn a national spotlight on an industry and a segment of technology that can do so much to bolster consumers’ independence, but remains unknown to the general public.

The idea began, says NMEDA’s Executive Director Dave Hubbard, with the organization’s cooperative awareness program, which has been pooling participants’ contributions and spending the funds to generate awareness for mobility products.

“We ran that program for about a year doing some traditional advertising,” Hubbard says. “And what we found from our research is because of the amount of money we were able to generate, we were having very little impact in traditional media.”

Deciding it needed a way to get more bang for the group’s bucks, NMEDA members began brainstorming. One member suggested the industry needed an awareness week.

“A week didn’t seem like long enough,” Hubbard says, “so it ended up being a month.”

During that month, NMEDA is urging everyone in the industry to get involved in educating the public. “We want our dealers to participate, to send out press releases to the local papers and local media, radio, television,” Hubbard says. NMEDA, meanwhile, will be making those same marketing efforts on a national level.

The awareness month’s biggest splash will be a contest to award adapted vehicles to consumers who submit their life stories. “The contest really becomes the center point,” Hubbard says. “It focuses on encouraging people to deal with their disability, and it promotes life.”

Contestants will be able to upload videos on Facebook, then encourage friends to vote. Winners will receive vehicles built and fitted by NMEDA members to the required specifications.

And since potential voters need to visit a mobility dealer’s Web site or store to receive a code in order to cast a ballot, NMEDA hopes people will learn more about the adaptive automotive specialty.

Toyota, Hubbard says, has already donated a vehicle to give away, and other manufacturers are considering similar donations. NMEDA’s goal is to give the vehicles away on national TV shows, such as Good Morning America or Ellen.

The National Mobility Awareness Month will be a big topic at NMEDA’s national conference, Feb. 22-24 in Phoenix.

“We will be having a press conference there,” Hubbard says, “and are devoting an entire workshop to explain this to the dealers. When they leave the conference, there will be dealer kits waiting for them.”

While the vehicle contest is likely to draw the big national headlines, ultimately the hope is that NMEDA members can also make lasting impressions in their own backyards.

“We want the dealers to have open houses, media days and that kind of thing,” Hubbard says. “Open it up to the public and put a display out there. Have a weekend to do something special and invite people that wouldn’t have normally been invited.”

Much effort has already been invested in National Mobility Awareness Month, and stakeholders are looking forward to what comes next.

“It’s a lot of work,” Hubbard says. “But it’s really exciting.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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