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Guidebook 25 Planning & Evaluating Your Research Communication 3 Chapter Planning & Evaluating Your Research Communication Embarking on a program to establish value and Communication Planning influence perceptions requires careful planning, diligence, and patience. It is not a one-shot Transportation researchers are recognizing the effort, nor can it be executed at the last minute importance of communication throughout the when funding decisions are about to be made. research process and that doing so includes Therefore, your entire program should adopt a more than disseminating research findings principle of continual communication as part of in a report when they complete a project. A your research process. Before you can successfully well-designed communication process and merge communication into the research process structure can improve outcomes. This means and begin establishing value, you should have that strategic planning needs to start at the a good understanding of the processes of onset of your research project to ensure that communication planning and evaluation. purposeful communication links your research to the appropriate audience during the design and conduct of the research. Doing so captures, This chapter provides sound advice on the best involves, and retains their interest. A key to this ways to proceed in incorporating communication is bringing the right people into the research planning into your overall research process process at the planning stage. and options for evaluating the impact of your communication. It provides details on: Who should be involved in the process and when to involve them, "Adopt a principle of continual How to use a plan to structure your communication as part of your communication, and research process." What options you can use to evaluate your communication efforts. We refer to your research communication Typically, at the onset of a research study, a planning and evaluation efforts as a technical team forms to direct and monitor its "communication effort." We recognize that while progress. At a minimum, these technical teams some communication efforts tied to a research include a research division manager and a program may indeed be equivalent to a full- technical liaison or principal investigator from the blown media campaign, most will typically be on division's or research program's functional area. a smaller, more conservative scale. Nonetheless, Broadening your research team to include input we use the term communication effort to mean from trained and experienced communication any activity tied to communicating your research professionals offers several benefits. These project or program. specialists can assist with the planning for the

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Guidebook 26 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research eventual dissemination of results, especially if the results may attract public attention. But more importantly, these experts keep Include Communication their ear on the ongoing public and political Professionals on Your dialogue and can communicate with key public Research Team audiences throughout the research process. Seriously considering communication during A research team member frequently the research process means strengthening your overlooked is the communication communication skills, through guides such as professional. The most important time to this one, and seeking the help of communication include the communication professional professionals. is during the proposal stage, when the research outcomes are being discussed. This person may be drawn from within Strategic communication decisions made your organization's public affairs or early in the research process provide the basis communications office or may be an outside for a successful communication plan and consultant specializing in communicating implementation effort. Think strategically rather transportation issues. than tactically at the onset of planning. High- impact communication is typically the result of strategy-driven tactics--not the other way around. You can use a communication plan to guide your strategic thinking and document decisions about how to communicate the value of your research. This easy-to-use tool, familiar to every communication professional, will help your communication stay on target, create strong outcomes, and ensure you use resources effectively.

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Guidebook 27 Planning & Evaluating Your Research Communication Prepare a Communication Plan TITLE Executive Summary [Write this summary first, and then develop detailed pages as appropriate. Come back to the summary each time you edit or add to the document to ensure it remains accurate.] Research/Situation Analysis [Briefly cover any supporting research, historical background, and the current situation from which the communication need arises.] Goal [Describe the overall goals for this communication plan. If part of a broader initiative, indicate that.] Target Audiences [List whom you want to reach, their primary interests, and your call to action (your objective in reaching them). Group people if they will be regarded as the same and segment into separate groups if you will differentiate the objective, communication activities, and collateral materials. Typical target markets include other researchers, decision makers, the news media, current and prospective donors, and the public at large.] Audience Primary Interests Objective Key Messages and Key Message Testing [List key messages to be delivered in this communication effort and indicate when and how the messages will be tested.] Strategies and Tactics [Briefly list the activities to be undertaken in delivering the messages to the target audiences. Include the channels, people involved, materials required, and other assets that you need to have for this effort.] Implementation [Indicate the lead person/group and other people involved in planning and carrying out the plan, including champions. Define their roles and responsibilities.] Evaluation [Identify how and when the communication efforts will be measured.] Timeline [Create a schedule for each discrete strategy or tactic.] Budget [Outline every element requiring funding, including evaluation, development of materials, media placement, and staffing resources.] Plan Authorship Planning process started: [m/d/yy] Plan authored by: [Name(s)]

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Guidebook 28 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research The components or structure of your communication plan will vary according to the communication objectives of your research Crafting Communication program. Well-defined objectives are the Objectives cornerstone of a good communication plan. If the objectives are too broad, the decisions will be Consider the following tips in crafting your communication objectives: difficult to make. You might have more than one objective, requiring different strategies. Multiple objectives. A separate communication plan may be required for each objective. It is likely that the It is likely that the decision makers, audience, target audiences and messages for each and message for each objective will be quite objective will be very different. different. Having different strategies is acceptable, as long as they do not contradict each other. Specific objectives. Avoid vague objectives like "raising awareness." Your objective in communicating the value Ask yourself why you want to raise of your research may be to affect a policy awareness. Do you want to influence a decision or to influence the adoption and use behavior change or shape an opinion, of new technology. To help you craft your own influence the funding allocated to communication objectives, refer to Table 1, which transportation research, or convince a highlights the communication objective or issue highway engineer to adopt your new to sell for each of the case studies examined for roadway construction technology? this project. State a specific objective and decide how you will measure progress--i.e., "increasing the amount of funding for With a strong research team purposefully formed seismic research by $800,000." and a clear objective in hand, you are well positioned for scoping out how you will make your research goals a reality. Table 1: Communication Objectives of the NCHRP 20-78 Case Studies Case Study Research Value to Sell Communication Objective Adaptive Control Software Lite Publicprivate partnerships that advance signal Build publicprivate partnerships to develop software development. new signal software. Northwestern University Beneficial properties of a new steel. Convince decision makers to use new steel for New Bridge Steel bridge design. California Seismic Bridge Retrofit The life safety benefits from incremental research on Divert funds from existing capital projects to Program seismic retrofit methods. retrofit bridges. Virginia Fiber-Reinforced The cost and performance advantages of the Deploy fiber-reinforced polymer and other Polymer Bridge Deck application of fiber-reinforced polymer bridge materials where appropriate in bridge repairs materials. across the state. Missouri Statewide Installation of A statewide solution to prevent a specific crash type. Install median cable barriers statewide. Median Cable Barriers Oregon Mileage Fee Concept A more equitable and efficient way to collect road Implement a substantial field test of the and Road User Fee Pilot Program user fees to maintain, preserve, and improve Oregon's mileage fee system in Oregon. highways that is acceptable to the public. National Cooperative The productivity and safety benefits derived from a Establish a national freight research program Freight Research Program national freight research program. funded under SAFETEA-LU.