August 6, 2015
More is Not Always Better - As water and wastewater utilities have enhanced their outreach efforts they have increased the amount of information available to the public. This begins with information that helps customers get things done using the utility’s website, for example paying a bill or getting a problem solved. But most utilities provide more than just customer service information, and the information provided is often voluminous and pretty technical. One justification for creating and maintaining this information is the need to be transparent. Being transparent is required, but there is no real transparency if the important information is hard to find, or once found difficult to understand. And despite providing lots of content, which is a chore to maintain, many utilities still struggle with forging productive relationships with community leaders (those who influence policy decisions and therefore investment).
Finger on the Pulse – Given this challenge, we can ask a simple question. Is it possible that members of the influential public need only a small amount of focused information to have their “finger on the pulse” of the utility? Let’s answer this questions with another question. Would it be valuable to the utility’s staff and policy makers if they knew which community leaders were receiving and reading brief information on the utility’s investments, efficiency improvements, and recent policy decisions? The answer is yes!
Five Minutes a Month – Making this happen is straightforward. Information provided by the utility must be brief (requiring 30 seconds or less to read), focused on the issues outlined above, and have headlines that connect an action of the utility with a beneficial result. Add to this recent policy decisions by the utility’s governing body and you have a content strategy that helps community leaders know what they need to know. And all that is required is that they spend five minutes a month reading weekly communication pieces. We can certainly argue that community leaders should have their finger on the pulse of the utility. After all, its performance sustains the local economy and quality of life. The utility’s job is to make it easy.
The “Ask” - A senior utility manager recently recounted that he was conducting a facility tour and one of the people on the tour was a member of the state legislature. Near the end of the tour the legislator asked what they could do to help the utility. In retrospect the utility manager was disappointed that he did not have a quick answer. What if the ask was simply to give the utility five minutes a month?
Future Branding Updates will address how to make creating marquee content part of normal utility operations, and ways to deliver the information to specific community members.