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Tolling Points

What’s Old is New at IBTTA New Media Panel

By: 
Bill Cramer

The new media panel at IBTTA’s New Media, Communications & Human Resources Workshop, October 18-20 in Cleveland, Ohio will be a terrific venue for participants to share tips, tools, tactics, and best practices for getting the most out of online platforms.

But in the end, the best media strategies are all about the audience. Which means “new media” is sometimes about using “old media” in new ways, says session moderator Carl DeFebo, Jr., Director of Public Relations and Marketing for the Pennsylvania Turnpike (now celebrating its 75th anniversary!).

“Even though this is a new media session, we’ll also talk about some interesting communications initiatives that decided against the use of new media, for various reasons,” he says. “It’s all about the audience and the message, so what is the proper mix between traditional and new media tools?”

DeFebo says the full range of answers to that question will come from participants, not just panelists. “We’re going to be focused on building a very active dialogue, because we have as much to learn from them as they do from us,” he stresses. “That’s super-important to us. It’s been one of our goals for this panel from the start.”

Who Are We Talking (and Listening) To?

Public relations, marketing, and human resource executives in tolling agencies are constantly using new and old media to connect with their key stakeholders, primarily customers, employees, and neighbors. A key insight enabled by targeted new media platforms is the opportunity to use a different set of tools to deliver a unique message to each audience.

But there are some important common denominators, DeFebo says. “One of the things emerging from a couple of the presentations is the really different, innovative, and fun new ways to use these tools,” he says.

When tolling agency communicators last met two years ago in Baltimore, “a lot of the discussion centered around the use of social media tools for outbound marketing campaigns, or to communicate traffic conditions or roadway closures. In Cleveland, we’ll hear some evolving ideas about reward programs for customers, or how to improve relationships with neighbors as part of a community outreach campaign.”

Being a Good Neighbor

Tolling agencies are used to communicating with the customers who use their roads. Some of them are becoming just as familiar with the neighbors around the corner.

“You hear traffic engineers refer to them as residents, but PR and marketing people like to call them our neighbors, because that’s who they are,” DeFebo says. “They’re the people who put up with our construction, who listen to the honking from the occasional tractor trailer. And they are the other important group of people we have to communicate with about changes that have an impact on their lives.”

All of which comes back to a conversation about micro-targeting. “We have different ways of reaching employees, customers, and neighbors, and we have different messages for each of those audiences,” he says. “We’re going to be presenting some fun, interesting ways for toll agencies to engage different audiences in ways that I’d not thought of before, and that many of our colleagues in the industry have probably not thought of.”

A New Twist on Old Media

But what about maintenance workers or toll collectors who may live hundreds of miles away from a tolling agency’s head office, never go online, and don’t even own a home computer?

For all the power of new media, “we really need to think about the message and the audience before we decide that social media is the right tool,” DeFebo says. “Everybody in our industry is in a rush to hop on this bandwagon, but let’s take the time to think about the content of the message and the audience we’re trying to reach.”

DeFebo’s panel in Cleveland will explore audience-centered media practices, new and old, from the perspective that “it’s not a cookie cutter approach. You have to think about who your audience is and the nature of the message. Sometimes, the answer is to put a letter in the mail.”

“As communicators, we have to be open to that.”

If you haven’t registered for IBTTA’s New Media, Communications & Human Resources Workshop, click here to register now.

 

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