A strong communications practice is essential to the operations of state departments of transportation (DOTs). Over time, it can help build trust among the agency’s stakeholders, improve public understanding of the DOT’s mission, and generate public support.
To be effective, a DOT communications team needs a strong leader, typically called communications director; the support of top management; and a skilled staff prepared to take on diverse tasks in a changing environment. Every DOT, however, is different. Some communications units lead almost all public-facing aspects of the department, from media relations and safety communications to project outreach and community relations, while in other DOTs some of these functions are handled separately by other divisions within the department.
Many DOTs have a decentralized, regional approach to communications, while others base their operations at headquarters. Other differences are due to variations in overall DOT functions. Some DOTs are mainly responsible for highways and others also oversee transit operations, airports, and motor vehicle services, each requiring different communications programs. The size of DOT corn munications units also varies widely.
Despite these differences in organization, size, and function, DOT communicators revealed in a nationwide survey and in dozens of interviews many common challenges, such as:
• What are the best ways to maximize the effectiveness of staff and funding resources?
• What are the best applications of new media tools as it relates to the core functions of the DOT?
• What are the best strategies to monitor performance and enhance the agency’s public image?
• What are the most effective structure, organization, and reporting relationships for communications units?
This document discusses these issues and presents practices that DOTs are using to address these and other common challenges.
This guide addresses topics such as:
• Recommended staff roles and skill sets for today’s DOT communications unit
• Best practices for communications planning and performance measurement
• Achieving a coordinated approach across DOT districts or regions
• Tips for operating with a small staff, building a department, hiring staff, and working with consultants
• Communicating effectively with DOT employees, including field staff
• Effective use of social media, videography, and other digital communications.AASHTO CGDOT-1 pdf download.