Transportation communications professionals are constantly challenged with trying to reach the right audiences with the right messages. Public involvement experts take that challenge a step further – trying to develop a dialogue with key communities potentially affected by a project or plan.
An interesting study recently published in the journal Political Communication studies the level of civic engagement following the closure of daily newspapers in Seattle and Denver. The paper, Dead Newspapers and Citizens Civic Engagement, by Lee Shaker asserts that civic engagement in Seattle and Denver dropped from 2008 to 2009 after the Seattle PI and Rocky Mountain News closed their doors.
It is an interesting research effort that uses data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the United States Census Bureau to analyze year over year participation in activities such as visiting a politician or attending a community organization meeting, such as a PTA or neighborhood watch group.
To remain most effective in communications, it is a good idea to pay attention to what’s happening on the Internet. After all, the societal embrace of the Internet with all of its information sharing and communications power has had a profound influence on society and the ways in which we see the world.
I often cite the Pew Internet and American Life Project for its ongoing tracking of trends related to the Internet and the ways in which we interact on the Internet. Pew Internet is marking the 25th anniversary of the Internet with a series of reports. The first report, published last month, was an overall look at the development of the Internet and its rapid adoption by society. It’s very interesting material and worth digging into.
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.
There is a new research document available online that transportation planners and communicators should consider adding to their reading list. The report, “Potential Use of Social Media in the NEPA Process,” attempts to fill in the knowledge gap between how most transportation agencies utilize social media tools and how the tools might be used in an environmental planning and public involvement process defined under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project’s latest report shows that social media tool usage continues to evolve. According to the folks at Pew, nearly three quarters of adult Americans are now using social networking sites.