11 Outreach Strategies for Potable Reuse

Potable_Water_Reuse_IDIn general, the public’s perception about recycled drinking water can be summed up in a few (and sometimes negative) catch-phrases. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years to begin to turn-around these perceptions:

  1. Start with research: Who are your audiences? What do they think? What do they understand?
  2. Get the language right: Do not assume your audiences know anything about potable water or how their water supply is maintained for their benefit.
  3. Talk tech, but do it briefly and simply: Photographs, graphics, and simplified descriptions have been proved to aide communication success.
  4. Build alliances: A coalition of supporters can create a powerful bandwagon that can attract members of their own circles of influence.
  5. Query your team’s attitudes: When identifying stakeholders and audiences, make sure your own employees are at the top of the list. Find out what they think or what they need to know.
  6. Promote two-way communication but manage expectations: Invite input where it can be used, but set realistic expectations for how input will be incorporated.
  7. Develop a message platform: The ultimate message goal is for people to see potable reuse as an acceptable alternative because they have been well informed in a transparent way.
  8. Use graphics and videos: Given the complexity of reuse projects, clear graphics will be tremendously valuable in helping customers visualize a project and understand technical aspects.
  9. Establish a news bureau: Get ready for media relations and develop a rapid response plan to address misinformation or misunderstanding.
  10. Use social media judiciously: It can be helpful, and can be dangerous. Understand it’s power and be strategic.
  11. Touring is believing: Solid graphics are great; hands on experiences are even more powerful. Where demonstration or touring is possible – make plans early.
Adapted from “Getting to Yes, Public Outreach for Potable Reuse: Bring the Public to a New Level of Acceptance.” Sara M. Katz and Patricia A. Tennyson, Journal AWWA, November 2015.