Marketing and Education
Marketing the Program
In states with highly visible State RTAP programs, there is no question about who subrecipients call with a technical assistance request or training question. However, states with less visible State RTAP programs may have trouble reaching subrecipients, no matter how many services they provide. Implementing a marketing program is helpful in reaching those subrecipients, and will boost the visibility of the State RTAP program within the State DOT.
It is much easier to market a program with a recognizable logo and mission than it is to market a vaguely-defined program. About ten years ago, National RTAP went through a branding process in order to create an identity for the program and market it to current and new customers. The program had previously lacked a clear image that was known by all of its stakeholders. Since the branding project was implemented, we have seen an increase in name recognition. The following guidance is provided to assist a State RTAP Manager to market the program in ways that will increase information dissemination. State RTAP program marketing can be accomplished through many vehicles, including word-of-mouth, email, website postings, social media, direct mail, commercials, listservs, and through local councils. The Colorado RTAP program hosts a monthly transit call that is attended by many participants. State DOTs can also be incredibly helpful in promoting RTAP program trainings.
Creating a State RTAP Website
Easy ways for a State RTAP manager to market the program include setting up a webpage or website specifically for the RTAP program and keeping it up to date. State RTAP managers could also have an “elevator speech” for the RTAP program and use it to increase awareness of the program and its resources both within the State DOT and in the field.
National RTAP’s technical brief, Driving Your Online Presence contains reasons for creating a website, tips for creating one, and related resources. A best practice is to maintain a page for the State RTAP program that includes scholarship, reimbursement, and other forms that subrecipients need to access, a list of upcoming events, and other pertinent information. Policies for the types of activities that the State RTAP program undertakes are also helpful. Contact information for all of the staff in the program is a plus, as are the contents of a library, if the program provides one.
States with in-house RTAP programs often use the State DOT website and IT professionals to create an RTAP page or site. Examples of states that have done this are Indiana and Minnesota. Contracted programs generally have more flexibility in designing an RTAP website, as is shown by the diversity of pages from Missouri and Kansas. Further examples of RTAP websites can be found in the Find Anything Toolkit.
Many free software options are available to build a website that’s independent from the State DOT page, including National RTAP’s Website Builder. Website Builder is helpful for contractors and states who want a customizable State RTAP page. If the state’s website is not meeting its subrecipients’ needs, consider building a website with National RTAP’s Website Builder, which can be seamlessly integrated into a State RTAP webpage. Several programs, including Indiana RTAP, have built sites using Website Builder.
Newsletters are an effective method for getting information to subrecipients, and a potential tool for collecting data as well. National RTAP sends out eNews every other week. We use it to update state programs and transit systems with new products, relevant information from partner agencies, relevant training events, and at times, to collect responses to questions. A State RTAP newsletter can function in a similar way, informing subrecipients of deadlines, state events, vehicles for sale, etc. The editor can also share statewide subrecipient data and collect information via a survey link.
Anyone can create a newsletter using many different free and low-cost software programs. The easiest way of distributing a newsletter at low-cost is to use a web-based service. An informal survey of several RTAP managers indicated that InDesign, MS Publisher, and Constant Contact are being used to create and distribute digital newsletters. Note that National RTAP does not recommend or endorse any specific commercial software.
Print newsletters function in the same way as web-based newsletters, but can cost more in terms of paper, supplies, and postage. If a state lacks adequate Internet access, using print newsletters exclusively or in conjunction with web-based newsletters can be a good option. Several states also partner with their state transit associations or other similar organizations to produce a newsletter. Doubling up on this effort can save both agencies time and money. This toolkit contains examples of RTAP newsletters.
Maintaining a lending library for a State RTAP program benefits subrecipients, who often don’t have the funds or resources to obtain critical training and informational materials on their own. Developing an up-to-date collection, implementing a lending policy, and tracking lending, are great ways to meet the needs of the state’s transit providers. Time put into developing a system in the beginning can save headaches down the road. State RTAP programs with lending libraries include Illinois, Indiana and Kansas.
In order to maintain a lending library, the manager should be adding new items, getting rid of outdated materials, and lending training books and videos. In order not to lose items, the manager will need to keep track of loans. Tracking items in and out of the library can be as simple as using an Excel spreadsheet, but the more automated the process is, the easier it will be to keep track of the items.
State RTAP Managers can also talk to State DOT librarians, if the DOT has one, for lending library tips. The librarian may be able to help set up a system and track the resources.
National RTAP Tools
This free web-based library application allows users to search, order and download National RTAP's free products directly from the National RTAP Resource Library. National RTAP provides a Resource Library search widget for embedding on an organization’s own website. It is simple to copy the code, and National RTAP technical support staff are available to assist State RTAP programs if they need help.
Since it was launched in 2011, Website Builder has allowed users to create and design websites that are hosted on the National RTAP server free of charge. For this updated version of Website Builder, National RTAP has used customer feedback to make product improvements. Website Builder Version 3.0 makes it easier for users to create and edit their sites by providing a basic template, simplified design functions, and new support resources.
Updated April 22, 2021