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Guidebook 5 Signs of Good Communication Practices 1 Chapter Signs of Good Communication Practices Our research examined successful transportation research projects and programs to glean the best practices in communicating the value of research. We identified seven common attributes of effective communication practices. This chapter provides these seven signs of good communication practices and how they can affect the worth-perception and value-exchange process. What Are the Signs of Good Communication Practices? Before reviewing the signs of good practice, it is research process and subsequently builds useful to define what makes a communication relationships that last throughout and beyond effort successful. a particular project. Successful communication efforts link researchers and research results with their This is simply good public relations. If we look at intended audience by strengthening the the definition of public relations in the acclaimed information flow throughout the research textbook Effective Public Relations, (Cutlip et al. process. 1999), we see that public relations is explained as a discipline that encompasses much more The key words in the above definition are than publicity. Specifically, it is "the management "throughout the research process." function that establishes and maintains mutually The communication process is continual, not beneficial relationships between an organization just a one-time effort when the research has and the publics on whom its success or failure concluded. That means making it a part of the depends." In other words, it is continual, two-way research process, at the onset of a project when communication (VandeVrede 2007). the planning begins. According to NCHRP Synthesis 280, one of the keys Signs of Good Communication Practices to building and maintaining a robust research program is "Market Boldly" during every stage of the research process (Dean and Harder 1999). Involve communication professionals. This applies in soliciting problems, in anticipating Understand the audience. research needs, in justifying the time and budget required for persuading others to test and deploy Demonstrate a tangible benefit. the product, and in selling the overall need for Recognize that timing is relevant. research. Build coalitions. Build two-way relationships. Effective communication about research requires advance planning--knowing your audience and Tailor packaging. your goals for reaching out to that audience. It also brings a network of researchers, decision makers, and other stakeholders into the
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Guidebook 6 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research The signs of good communication practice detailed below will help guide you through the communication process (the communication process is explained in Chapter 2). Involve Integrating Demonstrate a Successfully Communication communication into the Tangible Benefit communicating the value Professionals research process from of your research to a the beginning requires targeted audience requires bringing in professionals tailoring your communication to resonate with its to assist the research team in communicating needs, interests, and backgrounds. Linking your with various audiences. Our research shows research to tangible benefits for the audience an increasing recognition of the need for will capture their attention. For example, as communication professionals to bring their shown in the Missouri Statewide Installation of expertise to the technical team; this is essential Median Cable Barriers case study, rather than in effectively communicating research results. reporting that the research project resulted in the This is especially key in clearly communicating installation of 179 miles of median cable barriers technically complex issues to the media, which on Interstate 70 to keep vehicles entering from is still the major conduit to policy makers and opposing lanes, Missouri emphasizes the more the broader public. These professionals can also explicit, "the barriers have nearly eliminated advise the research team and leadership on how cross-median roadway deaths." Audience to communicate sensitive issues some research members are more likely to listen to you if they projects may produce before the results are can readily understand why and how the research published. is important to them. The key to moving your audience to act on or support your research is to meet them "where they are." Understand Researchers cannot afford the Audience to limit the communication of their results to other Recognize that The point at which you members of the research Timing is Relevant release your research and community. Communicating with the larger begin to spread results can public, policy makers, and others is essential to help you capture interest being a good transportation researcher, just as a and amplify what you want to communicate in surgeon's ability to communicate with patients is your findings. You should tailor the "ask" to the a crucial, but sometimes-neglected, skill. current mood and concerns of the audience and/or constituent interests. For example, if your People can spend a lot of time figuring out exactly goal is to influence legislation, you will want what to say without giving much consideration your research to sway policy makers before to whom it should be said. It is far more strategic they vote. You should consider other seasonal and manageable to consider the target audience trends or calendar hooks during the year to at the onset of communication and research link your research with the current mood and planning before creating messages and venues concerns of your targeted audience or legislators' for reaching them. To do this successfully, identify constituents, such as anniversaries of major your audience targets and then research them so events (e.g., September 11, landmark SAFETEA- you fully understand your audience and how their LU ruling, the Interstate 35 bridge collapse) and key values and interests relate to your research. other events important to targeted decision Not taking the time to analyze the impact of a makers or stakeholders. research project on your potential audience can lead to problems later.
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Guidebook 7 Signs of Good Communication Practices When it comes to Build Coalitions influencing a decision or shifting a debate, the messenger can be as important as the message. Third-party champions Use Champions and or intermediary organizations can validate your research, and they often work with researchers Allies to: to strengthen the credibility of their research and Host a meeting between you findings. Use these champions and allies to open and targeted decision makers or doors and facilitate discussions with targeted legislators. audiences. Speak at your press event. Author an introduction to a report. Offer a quote for your press release. Build Two-way Successful communication Be on hand for follow-up media Relationships is a two-way process--an interviews. exchange of ideas and Write a supportive op-ed. views. It has the element of feedback, which information dissemination alone does not provide. Consulting with a prospective audience or agent of the intended audience of the research helps establish a basis for exchange or reciprocity and helps you understand their values and needs. Packaging matters as well. Tailor Packaging "Being aware of these good practices is While the previous six signs of good communication practices focus on an important step in being a successful words (the context, message) or people (the communicator of your research. " messengers), do not underestimate the power of the visuals or their packaging (such as design, layout, color, and typeface for printed materials). Packaging and the images it contains will trigger the context your audience associates with that In the next chapter, we present the key elements issue. The most visible aspects of packaging of the communication process. The opportunities indisputably affect perception of value. The to apply these good practices will become readily location, size, and color of every image reinforces apparent. or undermines your message. Many vehicles are available for communicating your research story, such as websites, advertising, brochures, fact sheets, and reports. You can control all the visual elements and, therefore, the messages they send.