February 14, 2013
Branding Network Subscribers Focus on Finances and Rates
The Changing Water-Investment Landscape - Utility management is changing rapidly. Water reliability is increasingly stressed by population growth and climate change, and water quality and environmental-protection costs are rising due to new regulations incorporating higher standards. Despite the need for public support, people brand taxes as bad and frequently categorize government organizations as inefficient. The result: elected officials often don’t feel safe to support needed rate increases.
The Need for Sustainable Finances – Quality of life and the economic health of communities is fundamentally impacted by the availability of water and wastewater services. Ensuring high water reliability and public health requires fully funding the utility’s operating costs and capital investments. A “negotiated” lower rate typically results in systematic under-investment in resources and infrastructure.
The Politics of Rate Increases – Investment and rate-increase decisions are made by the policy makers (city councils or boards of directors) of local water utilities or regional water agencies. Given this, it makes sense for utilities to provide policy makers the clarity, confidence, and support they need to make sound investment decisions. Providing this support or “cover” requires that the utility address the following:
· Building trust (or a strong utility brand), especially with respect to planning, finances, and efficiency
· Developing a compelling argument for a proposed investment or rate increase
· Building relationships with community members in a position to influence water-policy decisions
The Utility Branding Network Helps Utilities Get Started and Keep Going - Addressing these critically important issues is an ongoing journey. Subscribers to the Utility Branding Network get support in building and maintaining their brand and ensuring sustainable finances by…..
· Auditing Communications and the Strategic Plan
· Developing Branding Statements and Strategic-Planning Sheet
· Aligning the Mission and Vision Statements with the Brand
· Tailoring Communications to be Meaningful to Policy Makers and Community Leaders
· Making a Compelling Case for a Specific Investment or Rate Increase
· Developing a Standardized “Policy Sheet” that Outlines Proposed Investments
· Drafting Return-On-Investment and Efficiency Case Studies
· Establishing a Website Structure that Reflects the Brand
· Using a Major Investment Imperative to Build the Utility’s Brand
· Producing an Annual Report that Communicates the “Good Deal”
· Creating a Systematic Process for Engaging with Community Leaders
The Utility Branding Network is committed to ensuring that water and wastewater utilities are trusted and that rate setting fully funds utility operating costs and needed capital investments. The Network is managed by the National Water Research Institute on behalf of water and wastewater agencies.