One of the most exciting opportunities offered to government agencies by social media was the potential to increase how well they communicated with the general public. After more than 10 years of Facebook and Twitter, and dozens of other social media channels, the question is worth asking: Are we any better at engaging with the public than we were at the turn of the century?
State departments of transportation, and other state and local transportation agencies have long used social media channels to communicate about road conditions, transit disruptions, weather impacts, project meetings and safety messaging. In fact, we celebrate many of their efforts here at Talking Transportation, highlighting the bold, the funny, the thoughtful and the impacting.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll suggest that government agencies are doing a good job of sharing information about the basic elements of operating a transportation system.
One of the 2019 honorees, a public service announcement produced by the Virginia Department of Transportation, used humor to capture drivers’ attention and raise awareness for an annual challenge.
During deer mating season, drivers have a much higher chance of encountering deer in the roadway, especially during dawn and dusk when visibility is lessened.
According to the VDOT award entry, more than 60,000 vehicle crashes involving deer took place last year. VDOT posted the PSA on Facebook, reaching more than 99,800 users. The 30-second video was shared 652 times on Facebook. It’s been viewed more than 24,000 times.
Congratulations to VDOT for using humor to highlight a serious safety issue for drivers.
It may be hard to believe, but one of the hottest media tactics is podcasting. And several transportation departments and trade associations have developed podcasts as a way to reach what experts says is a still growing audience.
According to “The Podcast Consumer 2019,” a report published by Edison Research earlier this year, 22 percent of people age 12 and older listen to podcasts weekly, and nearly a third of people listen to podcasts monthly.
Edison’s report finds that the audience share for podcasting has grown a whopping 122 percent since 2014. And, young people age 12-24 are among the largest consumers of podcasting.
By now, you might have noticed that the The Talking Transportation blog has been silent for a couple of years. I sincerely apologize for being away.
Honestly a few things conspired to sap my enthusiasm for this project. First, my son was nearing the end of his high school years. He was active in school sports, choir and other extracurricular activities. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Second, a close family member was diagnosed with cancer and quite a bit of mental and spiritual energy went into support during the past few years. And, finally, I decided to take my passion for endurance sports to a new level, completing three Ironman races since 2017.
Needless to say, my schedule has been busy.
But, while the blog has been dormant, the transportation industry has continued to pursue transparency and accountability through good communications with the traveling public. There truly is a renaissance underway as transportation leaders increasingly embrace new tools and tactics that refocus outreach on the users of the transportation system.
My goal in the coming weeks and months is to highlight those innovations, and the creative strategies and tactics being put into practice.
I hope to show good work, discuss the challenges associated with that work, and, ultimately, give you a reason to come back to the Talking Transportation blog.
In 2009, less than half of states used Facebook and then most were tepid in their level of engagement. The dominant tool for state DOTs was Twitter, but it was used almost exclusively for sharing roadway traffic conditions and emergency information.
The difference between outstanding and blah sometimes comes in subtle ways. In this powerful video posted recently by the Colorado Department of Transportation, the excellence is obvious – if you look.
The video takes place at a baseball stadium. The host interviews people, asking them how much alcohol they have consumed. Then, she asks each person whether they would be willing to drive. Then, she has them use a personal breathalyzer to test their blood alcohol level.
In Oregon, 75 percent of drivers admit to driving distracted. Nationally, at least that many drivers are eating, shaving, putting on makeup, texting, reading the newspaper … while driving a vehicle.
“As a culture I think we’re ready for a change,” said Tom Fuller, Oregon DOT communications manager, in a recent news release announcing a new statewide campaign there intended to help people drive more safely.
“The stories of deaths and injuries from distracted driving are as horrific as they are preventable,” Fuller added.