Creating the Correct Communication for Each Stakeholder

Status: Candidate    
Potential Funding Sources: AASHTO Committee Research / NCHRP 20-24 / Transportation Pooled Fund Project    
Timeframe: Short-Term
Research Period: 18 months
Funding Estimate: $350,000
Potential Sponsors:

This research will provide examples of communications efforts as well as how to assess them and maximize their value and impact.


Increasingly, DOTs view effective communication of agency performance, mission, goals and objectives, as being of of critical strategic importance. However, agency staff are often challenged to develop effective business cases to justify investments in communications. Part of the challenge is that research indicates DOTs’ message is not resonating with the public. In order to improve and justify communications, agencies need to understand:
. Does communication really make a difference? Does communications have a return on investment?
. How to make a message resonate with the public?
. What new tools can lead to improvement?

Research Objectives

This research will provide examples of communications efforts as well as models of how to assess them and tools for maximizing the value and impact of each type of effort. It will:
. Develop evaluation methods and techniques to estimate value of communications investment
. Assess the experience of selected agencies that have invested in communications efforts, in terms of the investments made and returns realized
. Develop guidance and associated tools for maximizing the value of communications investments by considering factors such as language and terminology, audience segmentation, media type/format, subject/topic, etc.

Proposed Research

1. Literature and Practice Review
• Synthesize lessons from communication specialists
• Catalogue of candidate successful practices
2. Regional stakeholder workshops
• Two workshops with DOT communications staff to assess current practices, needs
• Develop evaluation methods and techniques to estimate value of communications investment
3. State DOT case studies
• Apply methods to estimate communications ROI (how much agencies spent on communication efforts and what were the benefits)
If possible, include a DOT that is applying guidance derived from Words that Work
4. Develop tools for maximizing the value of communications investments
• An online glossary or lexicon that reflects market segmentation
• Develop guidance for applying tools to maximize the value of communications investments
5. Create and present webinar to present research results
6. Final report

Potential Benefits

With tools and guidance to better understand market segmentation and what makes communications strategies successful, and what kind of return on investment to expect, DOTs can be more effective in communications efforts and in achieving internal support for investing in them.

Implementation and Follow-on Activities

Training and implementation support for the guidance and tools will be needed.

Related Research

This effort builds directly upon:
• NCHRP Report 742: Communicating the Value of Preservation
• NCHRP 20-24(62): Making the Case for Transportation Investment and Revenue. It seeks to extend the guidance developed through this effort and to assess the results of its practical application.
• NCHRP Report 666: Target-Setting Methods and Data Management to Support Performance-Based Resource Allocation by Transportation Agencies.
In addition, a small number of closely-related research efforts addressing communications and performance management are currently underway or have been recently completed. This effort should be coordinated with the following active projects:
• NCHRP Project 20-24(93)B(02): Successful Practices in Communicating Performance Management
• NCHRP Project 20-24(93)B(01): Improving Public Communication Influence and Effectiveness Through Better Understanding of Transportation Users’ Expectations and Language – Public Outreach