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.
That certainly was true. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, but it revolutionized how people communicated and how they sought out information – two things that have largely reshaped the ways in which communications teams within transportation departments do their work.
In 2007, a DOT team with which I worked teamed up with a local utility company to insert construction announcements into monthly water bills that went to residents near a major project. It was expensive and time-consuming. And, we had no way of knowing whether the people who opened the utility bill even read the notice.
It’s common throughout the transportation industry to make data available for private use. And, that data often end up presented in mobile apps. No surprise, if a department of transportation or local transit agency has rapidly, or even regularly updated data that includes route conditions, a mobile public wants to know.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority not only makes its data available to those who build apps, it went a step further and asked its customers which app they find most useful. Then, based on the customer feedback, established a handy summary chart, that not only lists the most popular apps, but where people use the app and the features that customers find most helpful.
Not only does MBTA seem as if it’s listening, it also is providing an additional service for its customers. Which, by the way, beats the alternative.
There is little doubt that the proliferation and variety of mobile devices is influencing the ways in which people seek and consume information.
The trends and behaviors are becoming so obvious that major media organizations like the New York Times are customizing their content based on the type of device that is used to access the information. We’re not talking about simply making content accessible across platforms, but rather altering and customizing the content itself to fit the prevalent media consumption behaviors of each type of mobile device.
For example, the Ottawa Citizen this week announced that it would publish unique content on four different media platforms – news print, online, tablet and smartphone.
I received an interesting question last month from a transportation communications professional trying to convince her organization to invest time and energy in social media. Yes, even in 2014 there are organizations that are still unsure of whether connecting with customers in the social space is the right strategy.
The question from the transportation pro was simple enough. Her directors were concerned about security for the organization’s network and IT infrastructure.
“One issue that keeps resurfacing is security. The idea is using social media will offer up chances for our system to be hacked, confidential and employee information to be stolen, etc.”
It is a common trend among communication offices around the transportation world. We spend hours working with project and program managers identifying target audiences and the key messages that we hope will change behavior, garner support for a controversial idea, or perhaps increase participation in a public process.
But as we look outward toward “the public,” or “elected officials,” we neglect a tremendously important audience — our fellow transportation employees. Yes, do not be surprised if the people with whom you work are among the least knowledgeable about your agencies core messages and organizational priorities. Continue reading “Missouri DOT Goes Mobile to Reach Employees”