It’s the holiday season and a time to take stock and be thankful for the year that has passed and, in turn, to look ahead in anticipation for what is still to come. It is with that spirit that I offer up a few items that, as a transportation communicator, I wish for in 2015. Continue reading “What this transportation communicator wishes for in a new year …”
Regardless of where we work in transportation communications — state or local transportation department, transit agency or special interest group — we all have messages to deliver and stories to tell.
Have you ever asked how that was going?
Sure, we can track how many news releases we write and some even go further and track what publications actually print stories that include mention of our agencies. But how can we track whether our messages are really getting delivered? Are people really listening?
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 running with a friend the other day and we were talking transportation. I do that a lot.
Run and talk transportation.
But this time, my friend and I were specifically discussing the unique nature of being a communications professional in an engineering world. Some times, the engineers just do not understand what we do. They, generally speaking, do not always value what communications professionals offer in a transportation organization.
And, in the midst of the conversation in which was trying to describe living with such challenges, I came to a realization.
It’s all about the data.
Let me explain. And, if you are an engineer, please just follow my logic here. This is NOT an engineer bashing column.
Bump into a friend on the street and you might hear, “How’s it going?” After all, it’s a casual, friendly way of greeting someone.
But get that same question from your boss, project engineer, transportation secretary or state legislator and, the innocent question: “How’s it going?” becomes a challenge for many transportation communicators.
The simple fact is that we in our business spend very little time actually evaluating how we are doing at communicating about transportation. We pump out the news releases, tweet until our fingers are number, but can we really say that things are going well?
Measurement in public relations is a difficult topic. While everyone agrees it is important, there is almost no agreement on the right approach, techniques and data. We live in an age of tremendous technological innovation and data surrounds us. Piles and piles of data. But we really do not agree on measurement.
For the transportation communicator this can be a challenge, especially when trying to build a case for executive support and investment in robust outreach and engagement campaigns. How do we, as a profession, show a return on investment or a proof of performance for well-meaning organizational leadership that may not fully understand our business?