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Guidebook 13 The Communication Process Strategy How Is Strategy Used Effectively? What Is Strategy? Consider these four steps in crafting your strategy: Strategies for communicating value depend upon Identify your decision makers first; the identifying and understanding the audience audience will follow. and the purpose of the communication. Who Think about the research problem or are the decision makers? Who can best move value proposition from your audience's your decision makers and help you achieve your perspective. objective? Since the goal of communication is to Consider messages that will resonate with influence value perceptions, strategy depends on your target audience's core concerns. developing a clear understanding of who must be influenced and their values profiles. The more Determine the best messenger. clearly you define your audience and what it cares about, the more strategic you can be about your Identify Your Decision Maker First approach. It is critical to first identify the decision makers you are ultimately trying to reach. These are Why Is Strategy Important? the people who will ultimately say yes or no in response to your communication. The decision Strategy is critical to achieving your research makers may be legislators whose votes you project or program goals. It must be consistent want to sway or a transportation director who with the communication goals you are seeking can choose to use new technology in a highway (e.g., announcing, motivating, educating, construction project, or the media who may carry informing, and supporting decision making). your research story. In the case studies we researched, the main communication objectives were to inform and influence transportation decision makers. This Your decision makers are those who ultimately required attracting their attention, persuading vote for or can change a policy, influence the them that a research project or program deserved use of new technology, and so on. Knowing who funding, and convincing them to take action. these people are will guide you in targeting your audience. You or your organization may not have For example, in the Virginia Bridge case study direct access to the decision makers; in that case, involving a fiber-reinforced polymer deck, you must decide whether you are going to target external communication conducted by Virginia communication directly to the decision makers or Transportation Research Council public affairs reach them through other influencers. The focus is staff was as important as the interagency on the audience with the greatest influence over communication in helping to secure the and access to the decision makers. Third-party Innovative Bridge Research and Construction champions or intermediary organizations can grant dollars from the Federal Highway validate your research, and they often work with Administration to help fund the research. researchers to strengthen the credibility of their The strategy for external communication research and findings. focused on bringing the return on investment in transportation research to the attention of the Sometimes the target audience and decision public and the government leaders to ensure that makers may be the same people. federal and state policy makers would continue to provide department of transportation (DOT) research divisions and others with the necessary resources to conduct more innovative research.
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Guidebook 14 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research Think from Your Audience's Perspective Craft a Sticky Idea Once you know who you need to influence, you can begin to determine how best to reach Incorporate these concepts into crafting your them. Assess their values or belief systems, and sticky messages: find common ground. Avoid selecting strategies that appeal only to you or are the easiest to Simplicity. Messages are memorable if implement. Rather, think strategically about your they are short and deep. Proverbs, such as audience and the best ways to reach them. the Golden Rule, are short but also deep enough to guide the behavior of people over generations. In the National Cooperative Freight Research Unexpectedness. Something that sounds Program (NCFRP) case study, the main strategy for like common sense will not stick. Look bringing national attention to freight issues was for the parts of your message that are through the formation of the Freight Stakeholders uncommon sense to generate interest Coalition (FSC). Aided by the credibility of its and curiosity. members, support from the freight industry and Concreteness. Abstract language and state/local governments, the FSC became the ideas do not leave sensory impressions; major factor in the NCFRP's inclusion in SAFETEA- concrete images do. Compare "Get an LU. American on the moon in this decade" with "Seize leadership in the space race through targeted technology initiatives Craft Messages That Resonate with Your and enhanced team-based routines." Audience Credibility. Will the audience buy the Your target audience is the most important critic message? Can a case be made for the of your message. Use information gleaned in your message, or is it a confabulation of external scan to focus on the context and recall spin? Often, a person trying to convey a message cites outside experts when your audience's stance on a certain issue; this way, the most credible source is the person your message reflects how it may perceive the listening to the message. Asking "Have problem or value your research solution. you experienced this?" can be more credible than referencing outside Often after spending months and even years experts. conducting research and producing results, Emotions. Case studies that involve researchers focus primarily on how to convey people also move them. their research to other researchers rather than Stories. Use stories. They act as a mental the prospective users of their research results. stimulator, preparing us to respond more Perhaps they believe the products of their quickly and effectively. research will speak for themselves. Successfully communicating the value of research requires Source: The McKinsey Quarterly, "Crafting a Message That Sticks." the ability to craft and deliver key messages that influence--messages that are remembered the next day and the day after that. This can be referred to as creating a "sticky idea," or one that people understand when they hear it and remember later on and that changes something about how they act or think.