Can you hear me now? Taking time to evaluate the communication effort

RTG79RqTLRegardless 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?

Continue reading “Can you hear me now? Taking time to evaluate the communication effort”

Talking Time: US Times Zones and Other Oddball DOT Stories

pugg-wall-clock__13080_PE040801_S4Departments of transportation have all kinds of responsibilities that go far beyond filling potholes and making sure the traffic signals are synchronized. During my time at the Washington State Department of Transportation, I was constantly amazed at the variety of projects and programs that were carried out by the dedicated agency staff and consultants.

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Media relations and the ‘social’ evolution

Angel with mobile phone
Angel with mobile phone (Photo credit: Akbar Sim)

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.

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Media relations: Is your news outreach making the grade?

Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation

We are at a unique point in the evolution of transportation agency media relations. The evidence is mounting that journalists and journalism are changing in ways we hardly could have expected just a few years ago.

For instance, the New York Times and the Financial Times both are close to generating more revenue from subscribers than advertising dollars.  Just reaching that point suggests an amazing shift in power that we will have to watch closely. Gigaom takes a hard look at why and how the basic economics of news operations might affect the size and scope of the news industry. And, I’ve written before (“Three insights for transportation communicators from today’s newsroom editors”) about how reporters are increasingly using social media to help cover their topic areas.

Such a change in tactics by reporters would certainly suggest we should be shifting our tools of engagement, right? Continue reading “Media relations: Is your news outreach making the grade?”

Measuring communication? Five tips to help start a performance measurement program

“How’s it going?”

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?

Continue reading “Measuring communication? Five tips to help start a performance measurement program”

What Are The Best Practices for Measuring Transportation Communication?

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?

Continue reading “What Are The Best Practices for Measuring Transportation Communication?”

Three insights for transportation communicators from today’s newsroom editors

Photo courtesy Stephanie Brown.

I was fortunate to attend a panel discussion this week sponsored by the PRSA National Capitol Chapter that featured planning editors for several news and information outlets based in Washington DC. Participants included editors representing CBS’ DC bureau, the Washington Post, the Associate Press and the Washington Business Journal.

I picked up three important insights from the panelists that are worth noting here:

The state of newspapers: Steven Ginsberg, Washington Post Deputy Political Editor (@ginsbergsteven), said that media relations people should not think about the Washington Post as a newspaper anymore. Instead, think of the Washington Post as a news organization. The Washington Post produces a very popular web site that includes dozens of specialty blogs. It offers smartphone and iPad apps. The newspaper is just ONE of the things that the Washington Post produces.

Continue reading “Three insights for transportation communicators from today’s newsroom editors”