B²: Uber and Lyft

On May 7th, the citizens of Austin, TX said “Nah to the ah to the no, no, no” (a la Meghan Trainor) to the rideshare economy. Due to safety concerns, Uber and Lyft were asked to operate under increasing regulations (like fingerprinting) in addition to the already-mandated background checks. Both companies challenged the ordinance, lost, and have taken their business elsewhere.

The blame can partly rest on the “DO ALL THINGS IN THE NAME OF SAFETY” refrain that more and more cities are adopting. Burdensome regulation is imposed (‘cause safety) and goods and services that benefit the consumer are nixed.

The “DO ALL THINGS IN THE NAME OF SAFETY” refrain isn’t new, is probably here to stay, and can be applied to numerous goods and services that make your life easier (think also: Airbnb). Uber and Lyft are only its latest victims. So, how do you argue for the continued existence of a valuable good or service in light of safety concerns?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Isn’t this about safety? Aren’t these regulations, like fingerprinting, needed?”

B²: “Not at all. Background checks are required, and the customer rating also alerts drivers and riders to problems, should there be any. But one major advantage of ridesharing is….<insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, acknowledge the safety concern first. You have to pacify fear before launching into any benefit of the good or service – your message will be lost on an anxious audience if you don’t. Then, pivot to the overriding benefits this good or service provides. Yes, legitimate safety concerns should be addressed. But if checks already exist to prevent tragedy, it’s reasonable to question any additional regulation that won’t prove helpful.

Friends don’t let friends lose out on really good things in the name of regulation.