The agency is seeking a series of communications products that will help educate the public on the fundamentals of performance management: what is measured, why it is measured, and why it matters.
Click and expand each step in the process for more information and to access useful resources.
The Big Picture
🅐 Understand your performance data and information
Historically, the agency's performance reporting has been an internally-focused activity to support the agency’s own decision-making. It has not been a venue for external communications. The agency has a wealth of data, but few products that present data in a manner that resonates with the general public. The agency is seeking a communications product that will help educate the public on the fundamentals of performance management: what is measured, why it is measured, and why it matters.
🅑 Ascertain significant information to be communicated
The agency has a great variety of performance data but has no comprehensive index of what is reported where. The first challenge is to create such an index. Because the fact book will compile measures and data from many different reports, it will be important to examine the set of measures as a whole and assess its effectiveness, consistency, and clarity.
🅒 Create the context for communicating information
The agency seeks to use the fact book to clearly and simply illustrate, define, and explain its performance measures and targets in terms that are meaningful and appealing to the general public. Not every measure suitable for guiding operational decision-making will make the cut. The agency needs to keep the focus on measures of performance that matter most to the general public.
Step 1 Links:
Think about breaking things down to the simplest level. The links below provide examples.
An example customer survey is also linked below; market research can be costly but it's invaluable in helping to provide insight into your target audience.
Successful communications resemble a conversation with real person - it's not about addressing something impersonal. Turning abstracts like “improved bridge condition” into “someone who learned her commute carries her across a structurally deficient bridge” will help focus the effort.
🅑 Determine How Best to Engage the Audience
Because the audience for the fact book is quite broad, a key component of the engagement strategy is to provide additional opportunities for differentiation in the fact book itself. This means offering meaningful titles, clear illustrations, and brief descriptions – while also providing the ability to drill-down to obtain additional information such as recent performance results.
🅒 Describe the Key Message
In 15 words or less, what’s the main takeaway? The bottom line is that the agency wants to address the fundamentals of performance management: what is measured, why it is measured, and why it matters.
🅓 Establish Clear, Measurable Goals
It is important to assess whether a communication effort is working. This requires an understanding that communication is about reaching a target audience and being understood – not necessarily about management actions being taken. For this online publication the measures will be traditional online marketing metrics, scaled based on the size of the state, history of past publications, etc. Example metrics include: total visits, bounce rate, etc.
🅔 Compile the Communications Plan
Once the measures, context, audience, message, and media are established it is time to write up a plan. One key element of the plan will be social media outreach. Work should have already begun to ensure that the agency’s official social media feeds will contain frequent links to the completed fact book.
🅕 Write the Creative Brief
Using the communication plan, develop a one- to two-page document that provides the basis for evaluating creative concepts. What’s the feel? What style is appropriate? What limitations – words, colors, format, etc. – does the creative team need to know about? In this case, the creative brief also contains many links to similar documents along with notes calling out the elements that are most directly applicable to the fact book format, design, and contents.
Step 2 Links:
Don't overestimate your audience's familiarity with technical terminology. Use simple, straightforward language; when possible, use pictures! The links below provide examples and guidelines. When you work with data, use care in formatting your charts.
🅐 Draft Text and Sketch Out Several Possible Visual Presentation Ideas
Brainstorm alone or with a group. Think of ways to express the message. Let the ideas flow uncritically. Ideally at this point it is possible to draw up three treatments that would work. One is an unadorned dictionary-style approach. The second is a more complex and elaborate design with a fact-sheet for each specific measure. A third option would incorporate interactive elements such as maps and slideshows.
🅑 Review and Select Criteria Treatment that Best Meets Creative Brief Criteria
Now review the three best ideas against the creative brief. Which one meets all the criteria? Using the creative brief, circle back to stakeholders and make sure there is alignment on the concept. Because this document is the first such effort for the agency, the decision is made to combine the first and second treatments. The fact book will follow a simple text-based layout with stand-alone fact-sheets included for measures of greater significance or interest. It will build on the examples of…
This is where concepts turn into products – and it's just as important to be technically accurate as it is to have creative flair. To achieve this, technical staff (e.g. engineers, planners) and creative staff (communications, designers, developers) need a shared vision and common objectives. This is why the creative brief is so important. It provides a foundation for this collaboration. In this case, it’s likely that many rounds of revisions will be required to identify specific wording that is accurate and sufficiently detailed without becoming too complex to appeal to the general public.
🅑 Finalize Communications Products
This is final critical QA/QC step. Be sure your information is accurate. Check that it is correctly produced. Then go back and look at that creative brief and communication plan once again – and make sure it's still on target. Because this effort is designed to develop a fact book explaining the use and value of a large set of performance measures, it not only involves designing a finished product, it also involves designing a workflow for effectively utilizing that product. This means considering how the design will adapt going forward as measure definitions, targets, reporting timeframes, responsible parties, and data formats.
🅒 Prepare Materials for Different Usage and Media
Now it's time to complete the technical steps to prepare the creative product for dissemination. Check and double check file sizes, colors, permission to use images, and anything else that needs to be in order. One advantage of digital production and distribution is that corrections and edits can be made on an ongoing basis. The corresponding challenge is that these products must be planned and maintained for a much longer lifecycle. For the fact book, it will be important to establish a regular cycle of review and updating to ensure the contents remain accurate and relevant.
Step 4 Links:
If you want to get a jump on prototyping, bring your draft or finished art to an application that supports code-free prototyping. Alternatively, the old-fashioned approach can be just as effective.
🅐 Schedule the Distribution of Your Communications Products
Execute your media plan. Coordinate distribution, making sure you have the right materials for the right medium. Double check run dates with publications, launch dates with your team, and calendar dates with yourself! Is your webmaster ready to go live as soon as the board meeting is over? For the release of the fact book, the agency will prepare a standard press release and will also stand ready to launch the planned the social media outreach.
🅑 Implement Your Distribution
You’ve launched. Congratulations! Once the social media campaign begins, the agency’s official social media feeds will contain frequent links to the completed fact book. These links will invite contacts and followers to learn more about agency performance in a given area of interest: what is measured, why it is measured, and why it matters.
Step 5 Links:
Building a style guide can help ensure that products designed for long lifecycle are well maintained while minimizing rework and duplicative design exercises. These can be specific to the initiative but should align with your agency-wide style and brand guidelines as well as your agency communications guide, if applicable. The Washington State Communications Manual is linked below. Also linked, a useful reference to get you thinking about analytics that will help you understand how your product rollout is performing.
As you begin getting feedback, check it against your plan. Is it working the way you had intended? Then maybe just a tweak or two is needed. Is your audience missing the key message? A more major overhaul might be necessary. You should give yourself time to achieve the goals you established in step 2.
🅑 Review and Assess Communications
Finishing your effort is really the start of the next one. What are the lessons learned? Do you have the data you need? Have you defined the right target audience? Is your message clear? Were your goals appropriate? Did the visuals serve to enhance communication? How well did the team work together? Where were the problems? This information helps you plan better for the next round and lay the groundwork for future updates and revisions.
The Big Picture
Step 6 Links:
Looking forward, there are many suitable models for developing a richer and more graphical fact book version 2.0:
DISCLAIMER: The opinions and conclusions expressed or implied herein are not necessarily those of the Transportation Research Board, the National Academies, or the program sponsors. NCHRP Project 20-24(93)B(02) was sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, and was conducted in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which is administered by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.