Transportation mashup: Re-thinking public engagement

While interviewing transportation communication experts for a research project last year, I was given a wonderful description of traditional public involvement practices.

public meeting
Photo courtesy WSDOT Columbia River Crossing Project

One of the communication experts explained that for at least 20 years, government has encouraged the public to turn to the internet for an increasing number of public services. Licensing, permits, paying taxes, registering to vote, apply to serve on committees. It is a long list and grows daily. Pushing services online makes sense. While it might not save staff time, increasing online activity takes pressure off of traditional brick-and-mortar facilities, which can cut costs. Some states have even closed their storefront offices for certain services because online services have become so popular.

Continue reading “Transportation mashup: Re-thinking public engagement”

News releases still matter and three reasons you should care

I was going through a file recently after moving into a new home with my family. It was one of those files that was stuck in a box that was not labeled and that I had not opened in probably 10 years. The file was labeled, “Internet PR.”

File Folders

As I glanced at the clippings I’d saved and notes I’d written a decade ago, I realized I should have written “new media.” Or maybe “social media.” But, then again, Internet PR seems to be a better way of describing how we are using internet technology. It’s a tool to help all of us be successful at public outreach and communications – what I call, PR.

Continue reading “News releases still matter and three reasons you should care”

Communication pros describe barriers to innovation

As we celebrate the beginning of 2012, the new year brings with it some age-old headaches for state department of transportation staffs trying to successfully roll out social media programs. I’m sure other state and local governments face similar challenges, but since I am familiar with state DOTs, I’ll focus specifically in this area for this post.

I recently finished a master’s thesis on mobile technology and government-public typewriter, iPad and televisionengagement, and quite a bit of discussion among state DOT communication staffs centered on the barriers to effectively keeping up with social media specifically and technology in general. As I mentioned recently, state DOTs are generally leaders in their home states in deploying social media tools and expanding public information and engagement. But it has not been easy to get there and some states are facing real challenges in this area. Continue reading “Communication pros describe barriers to innovation”

Why is Twitter so popular with transportation communicators?

Last July, AASHTO asked state DOT communication officers to complete a brief survey about how states are using social media in their communication efforts. While we are beyond calling these tools “new media” they remain new enough that tracking their use and adoption seems like a good idea. The resulting report, released in August, provides a quick snapshot look at the ways in which social media tools are being used by state DOTs.

There were a couple of interesting insights gleaned from the survey results. Perhaps most significantly, Twitter is perceived by most (nearly 49 percent of respondents) as the most effective social media tool for reaching DOTs prime audiences. Facebook was cited by only a third as being the most effective tool. Linkedin, podcasts, video, blogs all were cited significantly less as being very effective.  Continue reading “Why is Twitter so popular with transportation communicators?”

Your customers are mobile, are you?

Transportation is about movement. If you are in the business of communicating about transportation, understanding movement seems about as basic a skill as you might need. Yet, many of our colleagues in the business are slow to realize that our audiences are now more mobile than ever before.

Research suggests that as many 80 percent of American adults use the internet in one way or another. Nearly 60 percent of internet using adults access the internet wirelessly. Expect that number to climb significantly thanks to all those iPads, Kindle Fire, e-readers, iPhones and other smartphones sold during the holiday shopping season.

What does that mean for transportation communicators? A significant percentage of your core customer base is mobile. The people who make up that base will expect you to be mobile too. Continue reading “Your customers are mobile, are you?”

Resources for transportation communications pros

In recognition of the holiday season, I thought I would offer my colleagues in the transportation communication world a few of go-to resources for staying current and informed about what’s happening in our world.

Transportation news:

Before you can communicate about transportation, you have to know what’s going on around you. Of course there is AASHTO Journal and AASHTO’s Daily Transportation Update, which I highly recommend (along with AASHTO Mobile, available for Android and iOS).

Here are a few of the better industry blogs covering Capitol Hill:

Continue reading “Resources for transportation communications pros”

Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

The Transportation Research Board hosts its 91st annual meeting here in Washington DC, January 22-26. You can expect the city to fill with thousands of transportation policy experts, engineers, planners, consultants … and … a few dozen communications persons. The largest transportation meeting of the year does not focus on communications specifically, but thanks to some leadership within the TRB committee structure there are some excellent sessions worth attending. You can find an entire listing of the TRB annual meeting agenda online.

Here’s a shameless plug for a session in which I’ll be participating, “Building Your Professional Network in 140 Characters or Less: How Social Media Tools Can Enhance Professional Networking.” The session takes place Sunday, Jan. 22 and it includes a well-rounded lineup of experts who can talk specifically about how they are using social media tools in their transportation communication practice.