Using Digital and Social Media to Keep the Public Informed

Let’s face it, few people enjoy it when road construction pops up near their home, work or along their travel routes. Sometimes people get a bit cranky. One of the most effective ways to keep the public calm and to head off minor issues before they become big complaints is to keep people informed.

When performing Public Involvement, we at EPR maintain an open dialogue with the public through multiple avenues. From offline face-to-face, telephone calls and letters to digital emails, eNewsletters, websites, Facebook and SMS texting, we are able to reach people who embrace technology and those who shun or avoid it.

Social Media
Social Media platforms like Facebook have been very successful in providing project updates and notifying the public of scheduled and unexpected lane closures. Some posts reach thousands of people thanks to the page followers who share those posts. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) prefers that Public Involvement (PI) consultants utilize Facebook over creating a job-specific website. For examples of the FDOT project Facebook pages developed by EPR, go to: US98NavarreParkway and StateRoad123*.

Website
Project websites can be developed as an online portal where people interested in the project can receive updates and find downloadable flyers, maps, brochures and more. While a website is less interactive than a Facebook project page, it does allow the consultants to store not only photos but multi-page PDF files with active hyperlinks right there on the site. For example, the MyNavyBlvd.com website was developed as part of EPR’s public involvement activities for the Escambia County Florida Community Redevelopment Agency. By constructing a special “Downloads” page, we were able to provide an easy to find and navigate location where they can download documents from the project information flyer to a PDF of the Kick-off Meeting slide presentation. Also, unlike Facebook, which continuously buries posts as new information is posted, a project website offers a static environment where repeat visitors can easily navigate back to the information they found the week before. Both platforms, websites and Facebook pages have their pros and cons. While the FDOT prefers project Facebook pages, Escambia County prefers project websites.

eNewsletters and Text Alerts
EPR also uses two other digital tools as a means to support the Facebook page or project website. Those interested in the project can sign-up to receive the project’s eNewsletter and/or SMS Text alerts, which are for emergency notifications. The eNewsletters are emailed to subscribers as milestones are reached throughout the project. SMS Text Alerts are sent to the subscriber’s phone when an emergency, such as an accident that unexpectedly closes a lane(s), causes substantial backup of traffic. Standard text messaging charges apply, so we limit the text alerts to urgent information that needs to be received by the public as soon as possible.

These four tools are only some of the methods that EPR uses to conduct the most comprehensive public involvement campaigns. For more examples of our public involvement activities, please review our project descriptions located on our Public Involvement pages.

*The improvements being made along State Road (S.R.) 123 are part of three separate FDOT-funded construction projects (Segment 2, Segment 3 and Segment 4). Since the work is taking place on all three segments at the same time, and since the three projects look like one from the public’s viewpoint, a single project Facebook page, StateRoad123, was designed and constructed by EPR, the lead PI team – Segment 4 – and is jointly maintained with the PI team performing Public Involvement duties for Segments 2 and 3.

309 W. Gregory St. • Pensacola, FL 32502 • T: (850) 471-9579/696-1303 • F: (850) 471-2086