Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
44 S E C T I O N 6 The survey and interview research conducted for this project reveals how cities and transit agencies are using strategic communications to build support for transit-priority projects and provides some insight into the factors that have contributed to make these strategic communications efforts more or less successful. Survey research indicates that many agencies that are employing strategic communications are doing so to inform and educate broad public audiences, more than they are trying to engage targeted stakeholder groups. Accordingly, they lean toward methods of communica- tion that reach broad audiences such as websites, social media, and formal public meetings. Agencies often employ third-party communications experts to assist with strategic communi- cations, but few agencies evaluate their communications programs. Paradoxically, most cities and agencies view highly engaging strategies that target specific audiences as more important and effective than those that use generic methods to reach broad audiences. They largely cite clear messaging and the establishment of public trust as the key factors in successful strategic communications and point to the lack of these as some of the most common challenges. Interview research with a select group of cities and transit agencies suggests that they pur- sue different communications strategies with varying levels of success, but that all effective strategic communications efforts require detailed planning and commitment on the part of an organization. The organizations that experienced the greatest success identified key stake- holder groups early in a project process and targeted them in their communications work. These organizations focused on clarity and simplicity in messaging and sought to emphasize the benefits of transit-priority projects in a transparent and consistent manner. Interview research consistently indicates that highly engaging, often in-person, outreach has the most positive influence on the perception of transit-priority projects. All transit-priority projects face challenges. Interview and survey research indicates that cities and agencies frequently encounter a lack of public trust, and struggle to build support for transit-priority projects with communities that are unfamiliar with their potential benefits. A low level of public participation is likely a more common communications challenge for cities and transit agencies than outright public opposition to a project. The findings of this research and the toolkit presented in Section 3 should make clear that good strategic communications can help overcome these challenges. The basics of strategic communication, as discerned from this research effort, are relatively straight- forward. Communication can enhance the numerous benefits of transit-priority projects when it is well planned and implemented. Conclusion