On the last day of the 2011 MAFC Annual Meeting, a small group of state, academic, and MPO representatives attended a workshop conducted by the MAFC communications staff. This workshop was designed to gather ideas about what sorts of communications materials and published products would most usefully communicate the results of the MAFC regional freight study, currently underway.
Before considering the question of what communications products should be published, the group focused on the audiences for these products. These audiences included: state DOTs, MPOs, state and federal legislators, policy makers at all governmental levels, chambers of commerce, lobbyists, economic development agencies, industries and utilities, transportation coalitions, realtors and property developers, trade associations, academic research programs, and the general public.
Because transportation in general–and freight transportation in particular–concerns everyone, nearly everyone might be considered as the audience for communicating the results of the regional freight study.
Once the group identified a wide range of audiences of for the results and products of the MAFC regional freight study, it turned to a discussion of the purposes this information should serve. The group identified three basic purposes:
- Information. The basic results of the regional freight study.
- Education. Targeted information, designed to increase the understanding of freight transportation in the region and its importance to the nation as a whole.
- Marketing. Materials designed to convince its intended audience of the importance of freight transportation and the crucial need for investment in freight-related infrastructure and programs.
These purposes each blend into–and serve–each other.
Types of Products
After a lengthy discussion of purpose, the group briefly touched on the types of products that should be published as part of the regional freight study. In the course of discussion, two drastically different product types arose:
- Data. The data behind the regional freight study, including GIS shape files and other freight-related information.
- Narrative materials. A suite of published material with a common message that can be used as is or incorporated into other documents, presentations, and web sites by agencies and other audiences.
The group emphasized that both of these options were necessary in order to make the results of the regional freight study broadly useful. And, they were adamant about the need for a single, simple message about the importance of freight in the MAFC region, and the compelling reasons for freight investment and cross-border cooperation in freight programs.
As the work on the regional freight study continues, the MAFC research team will develop three areas to support the communications aspects of the study:
- A section on the MAFC website to house all of the materials related to the regional freight study.
- An area for online collaboration amongst the stakeholders of the study.
- A survey to gather more information from a larger group about the communications needs for the study.