Using the Un-Dead to Save the Living: Driving Dead Series Hits Its Target

It was a little more than a year ago that I wrote about an innovative transportation safety awareness campaign, the Driving Dead Series, that was being launched by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Photo Courtesy The Walking Dead Series Facebook page.

Photo Courtesy The Walking Dead Series Facebook page.

It seemed strange to feature zombies in a safety campaign, but with literally millions of views in the last year, the people behind the campaign must have known what they were doing.

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The Big Three: Facebook, Twitter and Video Are DOTs Preferred Social Places

For more than half a decade, AASHTO has tracked social media usage by state departments of transportation. During that time, a crazy myriad of social tools have come along – and gone away. But according to the 2015 State DOT Social Media Survey, three social tools have established themselves as the tried-and-true, go-to resources.

(Full disclosure: I serve as AASHTO’s communications director and work closely with state DOTs on communications issues, including use of social media.)

Each June, AASHTO surveys state DOTs about their social media programs. In 2010, states generally relied on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Approximately 10 percent of state DOTs still maintained MySpace accounts and 33 percent offered podcasts.

socia media big threeThis year’s survey shows, however, that Facebook, Twitter and online video services YouTube and Vimeo are the social tools most used by state DOTs to communicate with the public.

The survey goes a step further and asks states a simple question, “If your state could use only one social media service, which would it use?” Twitter came out slightly ahead of Facebook, but both tools had their fans.

whichonetool Twitter advocates said that the short message format and the immediate information delivery worked best for providing breaking, or urgent information about system conditions. It also was described as an important channel for connecting with journalists and bloggers covering transportation issues.

Facebook fans described the rich suite of tools and the ability to integrate several social channels into a single site as among its biggest benefits. In short, Facebook has the potential for the largest audience and provides the best platform for longer-form messages related to safety and overall agency branding.

You can see from the chart below that Twitter is mostly used for the urgent, need-to-know information, while states mostly use Facebook for public involvement and general branding/safety messaging.

bigthreetable.emfA full list of the annual social media reports 2010-2015 is available at the TransComm web site.

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Talking Audiences: You Can’t Reach Them from There

typewriter, iPad and televisionIn the transportation communications business there are always two critical questions that should start most conversations:

  • “What do you want to say?” (the key messages)
  • “Who do you want to hear it?”(the target audiences)

Once we figure out those two questions, the hard work begins outlining strategies and tactics that we will need to reach the target audiences. But, unfortunately, it is very common for our colleagues to jump to the tactic, without really considering those questions – what and whom?

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