Public utility issues can often lead to confusion and frustration among residents, which has the potential to cause friction amongst municipal governments, or utility boards, and their constituents. Additional factors such as prolonged issues, lack of communication, and the passivity of residents can further exacerbate this tension. This was the case in the City of Rockdale, Texas that had been experiencing red water for over half a century and facing a $60 million price tag to fix it. To inform the public about significant changes to both the system and monthly utility bills, NewGen developed and implemented an education campaign communication strategy. This strategy consisted of a four-pronged approach that served to increase public engagement and awareness surrounding Rockdale’s red water issues.
First, determine the exact information you want to relay to effectively express your message to a broad audience. The information must be clear, concise, holistic, easily digestible for the average resident, and leave little room for uncertainty. In the case of Rockdale, NewGen compiled the following list of topics for our messaging to touch upon:
2. Target Audience
Following a comprehensive messaging plan, you must identify your target audience. When the goal is to increase community engagement, you want your message to reach as many residents as possible. Doing so can be difficult, especially when residents take a passive approach to governmental involvement. For Rockdale, this part of the process involved a two-level approach. The first level involved the entire target audience: the residents of Rockdale. The second level involved smaller, influential community groups that could help disseminate our messaging to their members. NewGen identified the following target audiences to help spread our message to the residents of Rockdale.
3. Messaging Outlets
Once you have identified your target audience, it is important to determine which messaging outlets to utilize. Choosing your communication channels should be both intentional and strategic, with the overarching goal of engaging the entire target audience. In the case of Rockdale, NewGen had to consider the demographic differences of the community, and how those demographics affected media consumption. The following messaging outlets were selected for our community engagement campaign:
4. Content Deliverables
The final step in this process is to produce your content deliverables. These deliverables should contain the message you want to convey and be distributed through the appropriate channels identified in Step 3. Creating content that is informational, easy to follow, and aesthetically pleasing will help you reach your intended audience and increase community engagement. NewGen developed the following deliverables for the city of Rockdale:
The four-pronged approach detailed above is an effective tool that can open the channels of communication, provide useful information, and increase overall community engagement. The next time your organization faces a utility issue, examine this strategy, and consider what else can be done to relay important messaging to your community.