Keeping customers informed

Sign that reads, "Viroqua, Temple Theater, Center Stage, Box Office Video, Box it-Pack it-Ship it, Dahl Travel"Drivers who are well informed about road construction tend to be "happy campers," inconvenience notwithstanding. They understand why the improvements need to be made. They know about construction before they leave home, rather than being surprised by the sudden appearance of barricades, orange barrels and Road Closed signs.

They've been told about roads that are closed or restricted, they follow and sense the construction progress being made, and they've given some thought to other ways around construction either by studying the map or checking out possible alternate routes on their own rather than fuming in frustration as their vehicles sit in a long line of stop-and-go traffic.

WisDOT has stepped up the flow of roadwork information to the public. We use changeable electronic message signs to advise drivers when delays are expected and to safely steer travelers through or around construction zones. Communications professionals employed at WisDOT use a variety of techniques to inform drivers about projects, their value to the public, and traffic detours or restrictions.

News releases provide valuable background information to news media. News stories and interviews with TV, radio and newspaper reporters can be arranged. Major projects with significant traffic impacts warrant brochures (generally with maps) that clarify the work ahead, detours, and alternate routes. Telephone recordings are used to bring inquiring drivers up to date. WisDOT also features construction zone information on its Web site.

The following tips can help you keep customers coming through your doors:

  • Put up signs that point the way to your business. WisDOT will help by permitting businesses to temporarily erect signs in the highway right of way to reassure customers that businesses are accessible. Contact the project leader to make certain the sign you contemplate complies with WisDOT guidelines.
  • Use simple maps to tell your customers about the best alternate routes to reach your business. Post them on your doors and bulletin boards, insert them into billings and other mailings, and distribute them to your customers who come a long distance and may be unfamiliar with local streets and roads.
  • Let the public know you're open for business. Develop advertisements for newspaper, radio or television. Pool your resources for group advertising. Advertising cooperatively can be very cost-effective. Brainstorm for innovative ideas to promote your business.

How others did it

Here are some ideas that have been used effectively in other Wisconsin communities:

  • Hold events prior to construction startup to draw attention to your area - perhaps a groundbreaking or a jackhammer party?
  • One community started with a "bridge breaking" ceremony while a band played, "Main Street Bridge is Falling Down" and hundreds of residents sang along. The community celebrated, looking forward to a new bridge and a brighter future.
  • Work with other businesses to design a logo for the construction period. It can be used in advertising and other handout materials.
  • Run special promotions such as sales, flea markets, cookouts, block parties, prizes, parades, street dances or grand finale days.
  • Develop catchy advertising campaigns featuring headlines like, "Follow the Road to Savings."
  • Turn the unpaved street into a makeshift sandbox, golf course or volleyball court.
  • Develop shopping incentives such as free hot dogs and pop or a drawing for a trip or other attractive prize.
  • Develop hard-hat promotions to sell or give away.
  • Offer registration into the Hard-Hat Club. Offer special discounts for club members.
  • Sell hard-hat lunches to go.
  • Print placemats and posters that offer directions to businesses and recommended routes.
  • Produce a placemat or map that steers customers to parking areas.

Be creative! There are no limits, so do what works!