Talking Transportation: In the Field … On the Mark

Translating the difficult language of transportation is one of the greatest responsibilities for the modern transportation communicator. We work among a very technically minded group of professionals, whether we hang around with planners or engineers. It is rather common for new transportation communicators to scratch their head at the crazy way in which transportation people write and speak.


But just weeks, months or years later, we succumb — like water running over rocks — and the vernacular becomes natural. We lose our edge and we lose the ability to see when we talk over the heads of our customers. And worse, in some cases we talk over the heads of our very own professional colleagues.

That is why I appreciate the “In the Field” YouTube series by Michigan Department of Transportation. It is produced for engineers by engineers. The folks at MDOT tell me that the audience is definitely a primarily internal audience for the purpose of promoting the transfer of technical innovations within the organization.

That alone is worth a tip of the hat. But, when I watch the packages I realize that in most cases, the communications staffs are able to carefully explain highly technical activities in terms that most people will understand. It not only leads to a robust internal conversation among professionals, it gives the general public a peak into the technology and innovation that is driving today’s modern transportation agency.


Author: Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.

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