What’s in Your AMI Public Engagement Campaign?

Sapna MulkiUtilitiesLeave a Comment

This article aims to provide some comfort to fellow utility leaders and water communicators that public outreach and engagement around AMI is not as scary we may think. Earlier this year I conducted secondary research and interviews with water utilities in Texas and Colorado who have implemented AMI public outreach campaigns. Below is a check-list of the actions I identified to be effective to ensuring a successful AMI public outreach and education campaign:

  • Have a measurable goal: The goal should measure behavior change. For example – a target number of sign-ups, reduced number of calls to customer service or number of leaks found. The end goal could also be the number of gallons saved since launch of the campaign. The point being that education an education campaign should have a tangible and long-lasting change.
  • Create persuasive message: If resources are to be invested in a message, it should help people become aware of their habits and then compel people to adjust behavior to a prescribed call-to-action. A persuasive message is one that embodies the following:
    • Reflects the values and perceptions of the target community.
    • Provides one or two simple prescriptive steps.
    • Uses humor to communicate the main message.
    • Uses creative forms of media- short videos, gifs, memes, infographics, etc.
  • Develop a media strategy: Knowing where your customers get their information is critical to know where to place your campaign messages. Some people will get information from a local newspaper or news station, while other may prefer Facebook or email. Every community is different in how it retrieves, receives and processes information; and for that reason, a good campaign will conduct an assessment of the impact of the media outlets in their community.
  • Monitor conversations: Customers will have questions and they will ask their peers or neighbors on public platform such as Nextdoor or Facebook – “Has anyone else seen unusually high water bills? My bill this month was $5,000! I called the utility but they said there’s nothing wrong with my meter. What should I do?” Utility communicators must be ready to participate in the conversations in a constructive fashion. When conversations begin, wherever possible be available to provide feedback that is considerate, positive, action-oriented and factual.
  • Anticipate roadblocks: Know what your opposition will say, and prepare constructive, factual and emotional messages to counter any claims. Never engage rashly with the opposition through any form of media. At the same time, not saying anything can escalate a situation. Therefore, know when and where to engage. In order to ensure that your message is dominant (and not your opponent’s) on a specific issue try placing resources towards ensuring your utility websites come up at the top of Google searches.
  • Don’t be annoying: Do not bombard your customers with the same messages over and over again because over time they will become desensitized or irritated with the utility and the campaign. Common non-annoying touchpoints are monthly bills and light reminders through social media, perhaps every other month. Another touchpoint is placing messages in a physical location where the behavior action needs to take place. For example, a yard sign asking neighbors not to throw grass clippings in the storm drain will serve as a reminder while they’re mowing the lawn. Strategic placement of a message helps to reduce the annoyance factor. Trust me!

About Sapna

As the leader of Hahn Public’s water practice area, Sapna consults with clients on water issues ranging from conservation outreach to rate structure communication. Sapna has over 10 years of expertise in water finance and policy, and environmental education and policy.

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