Developing Your Communications Plan
Once you have a handle on the target audiences for your transportation public affairs campaign, and a clear understanding of the impact of your project, your next step will be mapping out a Communications Plan. Careful attention should be paid to the unique risks and opportunities pre-construction, during construction, and post-construction. Each of these periods plays a significant role, serving to create, sustain and acknowledge positive public support for your project.
What to Include in Your Communications Plan
Stakeholder Identification: First and foremost, you need to know who will be impacted by the project, and how. This may include, but is not limited to, the following:
-Municipal, Civic and Tourist/CVB Organizations
-Maritime Transportation Authorities
-Area Large Employers and Business Groups
-Print, Broadcast, Online Media
-End Users: Local Business and Resident Motorists and Tourist Motorists
Key Messaging Framework: You’ll want to develop messaging relevant to specific audiences, while ensuring clarity and consistency among all communications vehicles.
Brand Development: Establishing a unified and powerful brand, coupled with consistent graphics and messaging in all communications materials, is a crucial early step. The brand will communicate the project details, impact and benefits, as well as deliver a clear and concise message and maintain project credibility.
Media Relations: A proactive media relations program will be an integral component of the Communications Plan and can include feature articles, broadcast interviews, traffic alerts, lane closure advisories and project construction updates to promote positive news coverage during the project.
Crisis Management/Risk Management Response: A crisis communications and risk management response plan should be developed to anticipate and mitigate any potential situations. Media training for key project personnel is a valuable investment to ensure media readiness.
Public and Community Outreach: Develop and execute public outreach activities to inform key stakeholders of the project and generate positive public opinion.
Media Ad Placement: A strategic media purchase plan for broadcast, outdoor, print and web should be developed to effectively reach target audiences about lane closures, project status and scheduling.
Website: Create a brand-specific website that is updated regularly to inform citizens of the latest project news and schedules.
Social Media: Set up profiles on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram to keep constituents up-to-date on project developments and gain valuable feedback.
DOT/TOC: If possible, work closely with the state Department of Transportation/local Transportation Operations Center to advise them of project updates and lane closures in order to instantly deliver information to motorists.
Program Measurement: A review of data and demographics, as well as monitoring the media and measuring stakeholder engagement, should be conducted at defined phases of the project.
Summary The specifics of your Communications Plan may run the gamut from press releases, online and traditional marketing, media placement, town hall meetings and even good old face-to-face meetings with stakeholders. Those elements will fall under separate branding, marketing and media efforts. But a strong Communications Plan will create the narrative for your PR efforts, leading to a consistency of message and a confidence in delivery that distinguishes a successful PR campaign.