April 15, 2013
Reaching the "Authorizing Public"
When thinking about public outreach, it is important to consider who you want to reach and why. Often, who utilities reach is limited by who shows up at public meetings or workshops, or who signs up to be part of an advisory group. It is important to remember that these people are self-selecting, and they are engaged for a variety of personal reasons or special interests. They do not necessarily represent the general-public interest. Sometimes the only people self-selecting are opponents or “squeaky wheels.”
Previous Branding Updates have addressed the need for utilities to provide “cover” for policy makers. This requires building relationships with those in a position to influence policy decisions. Ideally, the utility needs to reach community leaders who represent a broad cross section of interests. We have started referring to this group of individuals as the “authorizing public.” Reaching these people begins with knowing who they are, followed by proactively meeting and communicating. Self-selectors are surely part of the authorizing public because they are interested and engaged. But they are only a subset of this group, and certainly should not be exercising undue influence or dictating policy. The mission of the utility is to serve its entire community.