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From Grasstops to Grassroots: Making the Case for Tolling

By: 
Pat Jones

IBTTA’s 2013 Organization Management Workshop in Baltimore June 23-25 will feature a strategic communications session led by Communications Director Bill Cramer. In this preview, Cramer talks about the key ingredients of the campaign to position tolling as an essential tool in the transportation funding toolbox.

The subtitle of your session at the Organization Management Workshop is From Grasstops to Grassroots. What does that mean to you?

From Grasstops to Grassroots is about reaching out and making the case for tolling at all levels. Our panelists have extensive experience on the international, federal, state and local levels, whether working on public relations and communications across countries or with the United States Administration, the DOT and Congress. They have also brought the conversation to governors and state legislatures, mayors, county officials, policy-makers and the general public. Those are all important connections and essential conversations, because transportation funding happens at the federal and state levels but benefits local communities.

How does this approach help tolling agency communicators do a better job?

There’s no reason for the tolling industry’s communications to operate in a vacuum. We have tremendous human and financial resources, and we can advance the conversation on tolling when we use them effectively. That means speaking with a unified voice and sending a clear, concise message to help our various audiences understand the benefits of tolling.

How do you see the overlap between direct outreach to the public and communication with legislators and other decision-makers?

Overlap is good, as long as we all stay on message. In a public affairs campaign, you must stay on message and repeat, repeat, repeat. We all have our own strengths, and the campaign needs them all: communicating with federal elected officials, working through established relationships at the state and local levels, or speaking to local community groups. Our clear message about tolling must reach everyone who plays a part in the tolling process—from federal government officials who enact laws, to state and local zoning officials in the jurisdictions where toll roads are built and maintained, to the media who help educate the public.

In your role as IBTTA’s communications director, how do you expect to help agencies get their message out, and how can agencies help you deliver on the Moving America Forward campaign?

The goal of IBTTA’s Moving America Forward campaign is to educate key audiences about tolling as a part of the solution to the transportation funding crisis. We need our member agencies, authorities and organizations to be actively involved. We’ll provide the tools—watch for a steady flow of educational videos, fact sheets, success stories, media, and social media content directed at key target audiences. We’re also encouraging members to tell us about their success stories and share other pertinent information that we can distribute from the campaign page on our new, revamped website when it launches in the next couple of months. For program and registration information for the 2013 Organization Management Workshop, click here.