DefinedThe Communications Lead creates the agency’s communication strategy, directs and leads the dissemination of internal and external communications and outreach functions for the agency, and oversees agency public relations functions.Note: In some agencies, the scope of this role encompasses virtually all external communications in the “central office,” whereas in other agencies, some of these responsibilities are decentralized.
|Technology Advancement||New digital technology impacts the tools, methods and strategies available to reach various audiences.|
The focus on social media communications requires new skills to develop and manage content, ensure accessibility and protect user security.
|Technology Adoption. Help the agency adopt social media, videography and other digital platforms to enhance brand identity, improve communications and provide on-demand service information.
Aligning Skills to Needs. Develop strategies to build the agency’s knowledge base for resourcing social media and digital security functions.
|Shift in Role and Focus||The agency’s communication strategy needs to adapt to engage with key stakeholders on its shifting focus toward multimodal emphasis and the effective use of existing infrastructure.||Operations Focus. Develop an effective messaging strategy that improves stakeholder and public support for multimodal projects and operational priorities.|
|Legislation, Regulation, and Funding||Responding to new legislative requirements may require new communication strategies and methods to clearly communicate the change and its impacts on the agency and its stakeholders.||Agility and Resilience. Help the agency adopt communications approaches to share information about the agency’s response to new legislative requirements.|
|Public Expectations||Increased expectations for transparency, accountability and public engagement create the need for effectively communicating the performance and accomplishments of the agency with the public, elected officials, and the media.||Transparency. Advance efforts to tell a consistent “story” about the agency to stakeholders and the general public.|
Where to Begin
- Investigate emerging skills gaps to understand the resources needed to incorporate and maintain effective social media practices.
- Make contact with communications leads in other DOTs to get ideas and guidance on successful communication practices in light of change forces.
- Work with agency leaders to adapt branding to reflect changing strategies.
- Interview agency leaders about the impacts of legislation and adjust communication strategies to respond to the changes.
- Assess current communication vehicles and determine better ways to communicate that will support transparency and accountability.
- Strategic Planning – to ensure a clear and consistent approach for developing a communications strategy aligned with agency goals
- Information Technologies - to communicate agency performance and accomplishments
- Learning Organization – to align staff activities with agency goals and create a culture of transparency and accountability for results
- Communities of Practice – to share knowledge and develop new communication practices to respond to change forces
- Knowledge Bases – to gather guidance and examples of successful communication practices at other organizations
- Communications Guide for State Departments of Transportation
- TCRP Report 208, “Strategic Communications to Improve Support for Transit-Priority Projects: Report and Toolkit”
- TCRP Synthesis 99, “Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation”
- AASHTO Committee on Transportation Communications (TransComm)
Includes member information, as well as reports, professional development information, surveys, webinars, and an annual skills contest
- USDOT Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center R & D Communication Research Guide (CRG)
Reference guide for communications experts and others producing transportation-related publications. Includes print, electronic and technology information
- AASHTO Communicating Performance
Site for transportation practitioners to explore scenarios, nominate noteworthy examples and learn from peers. Focused on communications related to transportation performance management
- Best Practices for Transportation Agency Use of Social Media (2013)
The textbook provides explores various social media platforms and tools, with examples of how transportation organizations use each platform. Using a series of interviews, it illustrates what innovative agencies are doing to leverage social media tools to provide better service. It reveals lessons learned from various transportation agencies, including a regional airport, city and state departments of transportation, and municipal transit agencies.