Taking A Look Inside: Survey of State DOTs Offers Glimpse into Internal Comms

talking-clipart-people_standing_around_a_watercooler_talking_and_gossiping_0515-1103-1504-1157_SMUIt is no secret that state DOTs throughout the country have become adept communications organizations. The focus in many DOTs is turning away from the road to toward the people who use the transportation system – all its modes and priorities.

Whether you find yourself at a gathering of bridge engineers or environmental planners, the topic of communications has a good chance of being discussed.

And that’s why the newly released results of a nationwide state DOT survey focused on employee communications are worth noting. While DOTs are making strides in communicating externally, what about communicating internally?

The Minnesota Department of Transportation communications team was interested in knowing how other DOTs handled employee communication. They decided to develop a survey and worked with the Transportation Research Board to pull together a synthesis of practices.

Roughly half of the state DOTs surveyed participated in the synthesis. The report found that the most popular employee communication tools include newsletters and emailed news updates. Most employee newsletters are sent out monthly and others are sent out quarterly.

The topics covered ranged from job openings to legislative agendas to new baby announcements.

Just a few states use social media for internal communications. One state uses webinars. A few also use blogs directed at employees.

One of the most commonly overlooked key audiences is the internal audience. When a communication office is trying to build credibility with transportation customers, it is easy to forget how important it is to share critical information with your internal audience.

The good news is that the analysis found that state DOTs are making an effort of some kind to share news and information with their colleagues. Given the right tools, your employees can be excellent spokespersons for your agency. The DOTs that effectively engage their employees have the opportunity to reach communities on a highly credible person-to-person level that can reinforce or change the way in which an agency is perceived.

This synthesis is a good starting point to understand how state DOTs are communicating with their employees. Hopefully future research can build on this foundation and ask perhaps a more important question: Are these internal communication programs effective?

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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.

2 thoughts on “Taking A Look Inside: Survey of State DOTs Offers Glimpse into Internal Comms”

  1. The other question that remains is, What do DOT employees want to know or need to know? This synthesis focuses on communication channels and describes some content topic areas, but I wonder if there is anything distinct about DOT employee communication content needs vs. other businesses and industries. Thanks for sharing the link to this research!

    1. Good point Eileen. I think Lloyd’s post alludes to one of the reasons that DOT employees may want or need to know is because they can be your biggest advocates and speak to the mission of the DOT. Several years ago we worked on a project that was developing a toll road in small urban/rural area. Many of the DOT employees working on the project didn’t understand the rationale behind the project (as a toll road). This hampered their abilities to communicate about the project to the public. Providing them with talking points went along way to improving communication about the project. The DOT employees were then able to communicate with the neighbors in the community about the project. I think DOTs sometimes forget that they have thousands of people that can speak for the entity.

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