Six Tips for VIRTUAL
By Derek Keeley
42 SOURCE spring 2021
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC changed everything,
including how water agencies of all sizes com-municate
with and reach their customers.
While shelter in place has limited activities and slowed life
down for all of us, the essential work of water agencies must
continue, especially infrastructure upgrades and repairs, to ensure
reliable service for customers. This means that communicating
with impacted stakeholders and customers cannot be put on
hold. It is as vital as ever. These efforts help water agencies
build relationships, show transparency and ensure impacted
stakeholders are aware of construction before seeing and hearing
digging in front of their home or business.
However, traditional face-to-face methods of knocking on
doors and holding in-person events to inform customers about
these projects hasn’t been possible. So public
outreach specialists have to get creative and
act fast to reach and engage these folks. Here
are six tips from me and my K&A colleagues
to help guide your virtual outreach.
TIP #1: An email or phone call is the new door hanger.
Typically, door-to-door outreach is the most effective method to
reach stakeholders facing construction impacts, especially with
short notice. Today, emails and phone calls have replaced the practice
of canvassing neighborhoods. The contact lists are never be 100%
accurate, so it’s important to have a stakeholder outreach tracking
database to record customer interactions and contact preferences,
as well as be able to provide these updates back to the water agency.
TIP #2: Meet business owners one-on-one but virtually.
Letting businesses know about potential construction impacts
is a high priority. Many businesses are already holding virtual
meetings using Zoom or similar platforms, so they are generally
receptive to these types of meetings. For the Alvarado Pipeline
project in San Diego, key business stakeholders were contacted
one by one and back-to-back meetings were scheduled, enabling
the project team to complete all the meetings in one day. Twenty-minute
meetings allowed enough time to present information,
answer questions and address concerns.
TIP #3: Social media works for construction outreach.
Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and others are great
tools to keep stakeholders informed about construction
impacts. The user data allows utilities to pinpoint audiences
geographically to ensure those messages reach the right people
with the most timely and relevant information. When a client
THAT WAS THEN. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our
teams completed in-person door-to-door outreach and one-on-
one engagements with impacted stakeholders. We also held
in-person meetings and attended community events to dissemi-nate
construction information to members of the public.
THIS IS NOW. Due to established stay-at-home orders, our
outreach methods have had to shift to the evolving landscape.
Emails, phone calls, virtual meetings, virtual events and social
media are the tools we now use to notify the public about