Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Why the Old Ways of Talking Water No Longer Work

Amidst a recent hectic afternoon, one of our clients called to pick our brain about what LP&A sees as the latest trends in water agency communications.  Although it admittedly caught us off guard, it’s a great question that couldn’t have been posed at a better time, given the uncertainty of California’s water future and the swirling dynamics of public sentiment.  We share our answer below, but the bottom line is that the old ways of doing business no longer work in today’s changing environment.  Here’s why:

1. Water is no longer an issue that flies under the radar. These days water providers are asking a lot from their customers: Use less, pay more, vote for this (within the advocacy laws), don’t mind that sinkhole or pipe break.  Agencies that foster trusting relationships with their customers through proactive communications will reap the most benefits.

2. Earlier tools are becoming less effective. Social and online media is how customers increasingly want to be reached.  Retail water providers are still the most trusted source for water information, but the old one-way model of newsletters and press releases has been replaced with a two-way online conversation.  If you want to reach customers these days, you’ll have to play by their rules.

3. Drought is out. Recent rains put the final nail in the coffin of this overused term.  Drought refers only to lack of precipitation.  Use “statewide water shortage,” which addresses the climactic, legislative and infrastructure issues at play, and leaves your credibility intact rain or shine.

4. The big picture is in. Conservation tips help empower customers, but that mantra begins to ring hollow without context, and conservation alone won’t solve the state’s water woes.  Customers need to understand the larger issues of the Delta, pumping restrictions and where their water comes from for your calls to conserve to carry much weight.

5. Big shock: The economy is more important than ever to your customers. Poll after poll show jobs, deficits and economic recovery at the top of your customers’ priority lists.   So make sure your messages touch on the specific cost savings that come with wise water use, and see that everything your agency does can be defended as a smart use of public funds.

Let us know what you think of our list.  We’d love to hear what trends you’re seeing in your district.

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