The Oregon road user charge program, OReGo, has a huge challenge. It is leading the nation in implementing a road user charge program, one that is often hard to understand for people accustomed to paying a per-gallon tax at the gas pump.
And in researching ways to connect with their customers, the team at OReGO came to a realization.
“People just don’t get road user charging when you write about it,” said Michelle Godfrey, education and outreach coordinator with the Oregon Department of Transportation, in a recent phone interview.
What people need, Godfrey said, is storytelling. They need a way to have a conversation. And the outreach campaign in support of this new road user charge program, according to Godfrey, needed to answer a single specific question that should very much resonate with anyone working in transportation communications: “What matters to people?”
In Oregon, 75 percent of drivers admit to driving distracted. Nationally, at least that many drivers are eating, shaving, putting on makeup, texting, reading the newspaper … while driving a vehicle.
“As a culture I think we’re ready for a change,” said Tom Fuller, Oregon DOT communications manager, in a recent news release announcing a new statewide campaign there intended to help people drive more safely.
“The stories of deaths and injuries from distracted driving are as horrific as they are preventable,” Fuller added.
There is no shortage of creativity in transportation communications. In this example, the folks at Oregon Department of Transportation and Metro – the Portland area regional government – turned to a Northwest icon to help educate motorists about pedestrian crossings.
I started my communications career as an on-air announcer at small rural radio stations in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. I loved it. Of course, I love talking, so I really felt I had landed in the right place.
While I eventually moved on to newspapers before transitioning later to public relations, I still am very fond of radio broadcasting and the “theater of the mind” quality it offers those who creatively use it.