Marketing Your Program
In states with highly visible RTAP programs, there is no question about who subrecipients call with a technical assistance request or training question. However, states with less visible 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 RTAP program within the DOT.
It is much easier to market a program with a recognizable logo and mission than it is to market a vaguely-defined program. National RTAP went through a branding process in 2011 in order to brand the program and market it to current and new customers. The program 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. Though this type of marketing may be impossible to carry out within a DOT, there are ways you can market your program that will increase information dissemination.
Creating an 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 DOT and in the field.
National RTAP’s technical brief, Driving Your Online Presence, while focused on transit providers, contains reasons for creating a website, tips for creating one, and related resources. A best practice is to maintain a page for the 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 RTAP program undertakes are also helpful. Contact information for all of the people in the department is a plus, as are the contents of a lending library, if you have one.
States with in-house RTAP programs usually use the state DOT website and IT professionals to create an RTAP page or site. Examples of states that have done this are Washington 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.
Several free software options are available to build a website that’s independent from the state DOT page, including National RTAP’s Website Builder and Wordpress.org. Website Builder is helpful for contractors and states who want a customizable RTAP page. If your state’s website is not meeting your needs, consider building a website with National RTAP’s Website Builder, which can be seamlessly integrated into your state webpage. Several programs, including Colorado RTAP contractor CASTA, have built sites using Website Builder.
Newsletters are an effective method for getting information to your subrecipients, and a potential tool for collecting data as well. National RTAP sends out eNews every two weeks. We use it to update state programs and transit systems with new products, relevant information from partner agencies, interesting events, and at times, to collect responses to questions. Your state RTAP newsletter can function in a similar way, informing your subrecipients of deadlines, state events, vehicles for sale, etc. You can also share statewide subrecipient data and collect information via a survey link.
You can create your newsletter in many different programs, including Word, but Microsoft Publisher is on most computers, and contains templates specifically for creating newsletters. 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, Constant Contact, and HTML email are currently being used to create and distribute digital newsletters. In other states, InDesign and Publisher are used to create the newsletters and print them for physical distribution. National RTAP’s Contact Builder is a free tool that allows users to build email lists and send emails from a web-based platform. Emails created with this app look nicer than sending a regular email. Another free tool available for web-based newsletters is Mail Chimp, and some more free or cheap tools are here. This resource will help you make the most out of email marketing.
Print newsletters function in the same way as web-based newsletters, but can cost more in terms of paper, supplies, and postage. If you live in a state with a lack of 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. For examples of RTAP newsletters, click here.
Maintaining a lending library for your RTAP program benefits your 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 your state’s transit providers. Putting the lending library on your website using ResourceShare is the flashiest way to let your subrecipients know what you have, although a PDF or Word doc is also effective, provided you use a spreadsheet to track lending activity and update the list frequently. Time put into developing a system in the beginning can save headaches down the road. State RTAP programs with lending libraries include North Dakota, Washington, Illinois and Kansas.
In order to maintain your lending library, you should be adding new items, getting rid of outdated materials, lending training books and videos out, and getting them back in. And in order not to lose items, you will need to keep track of it all. 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 for you to keep track of the items.
You can also talk to your State DOT librarian, if the DOT has one, for lending library tips. He or she may be able to help you set up a system and track your resources. Local Tools is another free online web app that can help you manage a lending library.
National RTAP Tools
National RTAP EventShare is a free, web-based application that allows users to share and search for events. EventShare administrators can create an online calendar for their website, allowing them to post events in an electronic, user-friendly format for their customers and partners. Administrators can also share their events globally with other organizations using National RTAP EventShare, connecting users to events taking place nationwide. EventShare viewers can search for events and share them with friends and colleagues.
This free web-based application allows users to search, order and download National RTAP's free products directly from the National RTAP Resource Library. Through National RTAP in the Cloud, this web app can be installed on the website of any transit agency or state DOT and be used to upload, share and manage resources. This web app creates an interconnected online library with instant access to hundreds of free training materials. Additionally, the ResourceShare web app can be used to manage a lending library. Instructions for this can be found at the end of the ResourceShare Getting Started Guide.
National RTAP in the Cloud’s free Contact Builder is a web-based application that allows organizations to create, manage, and send messages to contact lists. For organizations that might be using cumbersome spreadsheets and listservs for their electronic communications, the Contact Builder web app allows administrators to easily and efficiently manage both their contacts and their electronic message campaigns in the same tool.
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 2 makes it easier for users to create and edit their sites by providing a basic template, simplified design functions, and new support resources.