Transportation agencies are constantly innovating to meet the needs of an aging system, a declining revenue stream and an evolving customer base. The FHWA Highways for Life program earlier this year published a document, “A Guide to Developing Marketing Research for Highway Innovations,” which is intended to help transportation agencies “understand the needs, wants, and values of their existing customers and potential customers and us that information to make better decisions.”
While I believe that most agencies already use some kind of research when deciding whether to pursue programmatic and operational innovations, the guide should prove a very useful resource for the transportation communications community.
Filled with anecdotes and case studies, the manual is a solid introduction to marketing research. It will explain things to consider when deciding on the types of research you might need, whether you will need to bring in a consultant and even some strengths and weaknesses for various research methods.
Whether you are a seasoned communication pro, or just getting started, the Highways for Life guide is worth checking out.
Every so often I am asked to share some thoughts on social media, transportation communications, public involvement and other topics that we tend to tackle here at Talking Transportation. Wednesday was one of those days and it was a delightful 90 minutes or so of hearing about powerful social media tools and ongoing transportation-focused social media research that is underway.
“Social Media and ITS,” sponsored by Thinking Highways included presentations by several experts in research and transportation issues including Larry Ehl, publisher of Transportation Issues Daily, and Andy Palisanamy, well-known among social media folks as @TranspoGooru. I won’t rehash too much here, but I encourage you to check out a recording of the webinar. You will need to register your name and email address, but I think the content is worth it.
The survey, which is conducted each spring, asks state departments of transportation about their use of social media tools and issues related to deployment of social media tools as a way to measure the adoption, implementation and best practices for the industry. (Editor’s note: Full disclosure time. I annually help write the survey and help analyze the results of this report for AASHTO, which is my employer).
As we move toward the season of celebration, the calendar brings us to the point at which it is natural to take stock in the year and to anticipate the coming year.
The Talking Transportation blog is now a year old. During that time the blog posts have ranged far and wide across the communications spectrum, discussing messaging, tactics and tools in the context of the transportation industry. What you will not find in the blog posts is a political agenda or mode favorites (at least not intentionally). My desire is for this blog to be a place for transportation professionals to pick up insights and perhaps share their thoughts if they are moved to do so.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment and recognize a few things for which we in the business of transportation communication should give thanks.
Technology – In the late 1990s, I was new to government public relations, having recently left my job as a newspaper reporter. Often, I traveled around the state of Arizona with my boss, the director of the Department of Agriculture. Few reporters had email. Fax machines were the quick way of delivering information. To get a news release out to media meant several hours of fax machine calls. I carried a three-ring binder that held all my reporter and industry contacts. It weighed about five pounds. I often phoned news rooms with updates because it was faster to do that than actually send a news release.
I was having lunch with a reporter friend this week and he casually mentioned something that nearly knocked me off my seat.
I am a former newspaper reporter, having worked deadlines and ink before the Internet became a common tool. Working a beat meant I left the newsroom and wandered through the local city hall and county courthouse. Not only did I know my story subjects personally, I could see the family photos on the walls of their offices and often talked about what they did on weekends outside of work. I talked to them regularly on the phone.
That was also in the mid-1990s before September 11, when access to government officials was much easier than it is today. In fact, I rarely recall worrying about media relations officers as filters, relying on the local police sergeant for tips and the state DOT press office for standard road closure alerts. But of course all that has changed.