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Guidebook 43 Putting It All Together Communicating with Content: While members of the public are interested in research and what it can do for the Public them, they are generally not interested in the technical aspects of research. Instead, they want When and Why to know the benefits and practical outcomes The public wants to know more about research from the research and knowledge that is gained. and how it affects their lives. Public support for Keep your message focused on one or two key a research program can lead to support from ideas that demonstrate the value and practicality elected officials, policy makers, and implementers. of the research to the audience. Support those They want to know how they and their children ideas with data, facts, and anecdotes to provide a can be safer on the road. In this time of increasing variety of examples for the audience to relate to. oil prices, they are especially concerned about maximizing fuel economy. Communication with Channels: The public uses information they find the general public, as with many audiences, in the media, but direct communication with the should be consistent, so people know what audience is also helpful. Mailers or town hall-style problems you are addressing and how the presentations and discussions are effective ways answers can improve their lives. to communicate with the public. Presentations that also feature time for Q&A provide feedback Applying the from the audience that can be used to tailor future messages. With increases in technology, Communication Process many people have access to the Internet, so Context: "The public" is a websites should be user friendly and have very broad audience, so information the general public seeks. Because the communication must be public as an audience is so varied, it is important suitable for all educational, to communicate with them through a variety of technical, and interest channels. While your audience may not receive levels. Look for events in every message, making use of multiple channels communities, states, and will increase your chances of success. the nation that relate to your research. These events Style: Improve your written and spoken messages give an immediate point of Communication Process by pretesting your communication. Have others reference for the audience read your written statements, and practice and tie your work to speeches in front of audiences similar to the something with which people are already familiar. actual audience to whom you will deliver your Not only does this make your messages relevant, message. Speak to the general public as you it makes them memorable. would speak to your family and friends to help ensure that the message is stylistically appealing Strategy: Communication with the public needs and clear. When communicating with the public, to be appealing in both content and style. Part photographs, illustrations, charts, and graphs of the strategy for communicating with the add tremendous value to your message. Consult public should include pretesting your message. with communication experts to help develop By asking people in your target area for their appropriate images for your needs. opinions and values, you can address your communication to the areas that are relevant to the public.
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Guidebook 44 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research Easy Ways to Communicate with the Public Write a letter to the editor. Think of the media as a gatekeeper to the public. A letter can put your message in front of thousands of people. Speak to a school group. Transportation is an integral part of our society, so connect with the youngest members and foster an appreciation for research from an early age. Invite the media to your events. Increased press coverage of your research program and outcomes will help educate the public on your activities. Get involved in community events. Many communities have expos and other events where members of the general public interact with business and other community leaders. Attend these events to get to know the community and let them get to know you. Source: National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, "Communicating Science to the Public: A Handbook for Researchers." Oregon Mileage Fee Concept and Road User Fee Pilot Program Case Study In 2001, the Oregon legislature appointed a Road User Fee Task Force to investigate ways to design a method of revenue collection that could replace the fuel tax as a long-term, stable source of funding for Oregon's road system. The legislature developed a user fee--specifically a mileage fee based on vehicle miles traveled. Because mileage-based fees are new and considered experimental, the Oregon DOT and the task force went to the public to explain why Oregon was pursuing this source of revenue. To gain success in its communication efforts, the task force held open meetings and hearings with a diverse public audience, made presentations to virtually all stakeholders, and welcomed public testimony at each of its meetings. The task force gave simple PowerPoint presentations to the public, gathered feedback on those presentations, and adapted them for the next presentation to anticipate and better answer the public's concerns and questions. Finally, the task force never published a paper document; instead, it relied on its website as the primary channel for exchanging information. The task force received public feedback through the website, and responded to all public concerns throughout the process to ensure that the public understood and supported this innovative plan.