Theater of the Mind and Talking Transportation

microphone_256 I started my communications career as an on-air announcer at small rural radio stations in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. I loved it. Of course, I love talking, so I really felt I had landed in the right place.

While I eventually moved on to newspapers before transitioning later to public relations, I still am very fond of radio broadcasting and the “theater of the mind” quality it offers those who creatively use it.

State departments of transportation and transportation organizations are still using radio, although it might not look exactly like it did 20 years ago when I was sitting behind the microphone.

Today, most transportation agencies are hybrid broadcasters, using podcasts or posting audio files to online websites. A 2012 survey of state DOTs found that more than 16% use podcasts. While that’s down from 23% the year before, it still appears to be an important tool for information outreach.

I stumbled upon a Oregon Department of Transportation news release this week that prompts radio reporters to download a pre-recorded news story about changes the state Department of Motor Vehicles is making in a few of its offices.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation also uses radio, actually recording full studio sessions with guests — usually involving participation from Secretary Paul Mattox.  Not only are the shows available via the website, they are broadcast on WCHS AM. I recently called into a show and it was a lot of fun to talk transportation with Secretary Mattox and the hosts of “WV on the DOT,” Randy Damron and Brent Walker.

Finally, perhaps THE voice of transportation — at least when it comes to radio broadcasting — is Bernie Wagenblast. His Shoutomatic website includes full news stories built around a variety of transportation issues, often featuring interesting interviews with transportation leaders.

Recording audio is easy – requiring only a microphone or a smart phone with a recording feature. Uploading it to a website is easy, as well. The biggest challenge is the same as it is for every other communication channel, focusing on the key messages and integrating the tool into an overall strategic communications program.

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