The Challenge

The City of Portland has its own unique rhythm. While it didn’t coin the famous bumper sticker about weirdness, it has certainly adopted it as its own.

Portland is no stranger to innovation. We love technology. We challenge the world to find new ways to tackle outdated thinking – whether powering homes or getting people to work. But even as we celebrate an ethos of reinventing how the world should look at old problems, Portland can still struggle with change.

Nothing seems to capture this tension better than the arrival of Uber. In 2015, Uber hired Quinn Thomas to help the company overcome Portland’s complex political culture. Its primary obstacle: “incumbent providers” who wield influence over decision-makers controlling changes to for-hire transportation regulations.

As Uber’s Portland public relations agency, we were charged with helping generate support for allowing the innovative ridesharing app to operate in the Rose City.

The Quinn Thomas Approach

  • Created media buzz to drive conversations early on and sway perception of the Uber brand among Portland residents.
  • Targeted key members of the local government, providing them with evidence of public support.
  • Implemented an “always on” PR campaign to continue touting Uber’s story and its positive community partnerships.

Making the Case for Uber

We knew making headlines could drive public opinion and organically activate new supporters. Uber’s preemptive launch in 2014 created the earned media opportunity we needed – becoming the lead story on local newscasts and dominating newspaper coverage and editorial pages for several days.

Petition efforts expanded support. And on the media front, strategically placed op-eds ran in print publications. Letters from key constituencies landed in the inboxes of the Mayor and City Councilors.

Collectively, these efforts allowed Uber to break through an outdated regulatory environment and officially begin operating locally in 2015.

Since then, Quinn Thomas has sustained a proactive PR campaign to continue telling Uber’s unique story. Using research to compare income opportunities between Uber and traditional cab drivers, our team helped secure partnerships with local transit advocates to address “last mile” transportation needs.

Recently, we helped develop new local partnerships focused on public safety and alternative transit with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.