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Tolling Points

Highway Advocacy Works Best With ‘Personalized, Localized’ Messaging

Bill Cramer

A blog post that originally appeared last spring points to the soaring opportunity for tolling agencies to tell their story directly to their customers and build public support.

“People are more likely to support increased transportation investment if the messages are personalized, localized, and relevant,” AASHTO Director of Communications Lloyd Brown wrote in early May.

“Successful campaigns must focus on liveability, accountability, mobility, and convenience,” he added. “Funding proposals also must be specific and funding must be dedicated.”

Communications is key to educating and informing your customers, whether they are elected officials, policymakers, the media or the general public. IBTTA’s New Media, Communications & Human Resources Workshop, October 18-20 in Cleveland, Ohio will bring together communications, marketing and human resources professionals from the tolling industry to hone their messages and learn about new tools and tactics to communicate the benefits of tolling.

No Silver Bullets

Brown was summarizing a study published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program that analysed 27 different case studies of transportation funding campaigns between 2010 and 2014. His conclusion? “There are not any ‘silver bullet’ messages that work in every situation,” but it’s easy enough to separate the winning campaigns from the rest of the crowd:

·       The best projects talked about specific projects and focused on their long-term benefits.

·       The less successful ones centered on maintenance and funding shortfalls and the poor state of existing infrastructure. “These campaigns also were vague about funding,” Brown writes, and the research found that “increasing safety as a message/theme was not successful.”

In a nutshell…voters and taxpayers respond well when the messaging is all about them and hones in on what they’ll get out of a project. They aren’t nearly as thrilled when the storyline evokes their own frustration with congested, unreliable roadways.

The Audience Comes First

The job ahead for IBTTA member agencies is to ramp up efforts to reach customers and understand their transportation needs and expectations, and respond accordingly.

“Clearly there is an opportunity to move people toward supporting transportation,” the report states. The messaging must be used effectively as part of a comprehensive communications program to engage the public in a conversation about transportation much the way IBTTA’s Moving America Forward campaign has done.”

Brown adds that “engaging with the local community and learning about their desires and expectations, while sharing some of the system’s shortcomings and needs, will definitely help increase the odds of earning support.”

All of which nicely sums up the customer-centric focus of IBTTA’s New Media Workshop next month. The program focuses on:

·       Managing the message in an era of tiny, digital cameras and instant distribution via social media

·       Using new media to maximize the benefits of local infrastructure improvements

·       Putting data to work in local communication campaigns

·       Building your brand from the inside out

·       Adapting agency messaging to reach multiple generations.

…and much, much more.

Register now for IBTTA’s New Media, Communications & Human Resources Workshop, October 18-20 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Click here to download the NCHRP’s 322-page research report.  



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