Section Public Affairs Program Model


SECTION PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROGRAM MODEL

INTRODUCTION

The AWWA Public Affairs Council is responsible to publicly position the Association as an effective advocate for the water profession, and develops programs to carry out that mandate. The purpose of this program is to assist AWWA sections in developing and executing their own public affairs program. What follows is a model program designed for sections to modify to suit local conditions and needs. 

While there is more material included than any one section is likely to use, the intent is for each section to select those goals, programs and tasks that are suitable for their own needs, and then complete their own program design by adding material of their own. An organized joint public affairs effort from the AWWA Association level, sections, and local utilities will help unite the water profession on multiple issues, such as lobbying, media outreach, and public confidence in water.

Many sections already have some form of public affairs program, or are practicing various elements of public affairs. This Model Program presents ideas and action items that can be used by sections without a program, or to enhance existing programs. It is expected that each section will have first developed a section Public Affairs Council or Committee (depending on how the section is structured), in order to execute their program. The AWWA document “How to Develop a Section Public Information Program” is another useful reference for those endeavors.

However, it must be stressed, that every Section’s needs and capacities will differ, and therefore each Section’s program should be designed to suit their particular situation. For example, some sections may organize in a Public Affairs Council mode complete with committees. Others may simply form a Public Affairs Committee, using other established committees to assist in carrying out parts of the public affairs mandate. Still other sections may be organized to deliver their public affairs mandate through the use of a Public Information Committee. For purposes of simplicity, this document refers to all of these various organizational formats as PACs.

This Model Program includes actions for the section and their utility members. Therefore, it is expected that once the section modifies it to suit section needs, they will then, using the material herein, prepare a second document that is a generic public affairs program directed at individual utilities, suitable for each utility to then modify to suit local conditions.


VISION

The section PAC, working collaboratively with section leadership, will be the leader in communicating on public water supply issues for the section and the water profession by developing public affairs strategies, positions and programs that enable the respective section to achieve its stated goals and objectives.


MISSION

Enhance the public water supply industry’s image with its various constituencies by creating and implementing creative, cost-effective communications programs in a timely manner.


COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES

PAC programs address the needs and requirements of the sections’ and the AWWA’s Strategic Plans.

These include:

  • Serve as a proactive resource to the media on behalf of the water profession
  • Develop media and stakeholder communications programs for delivering Section and AWWA Core Messages
  • Provide media and stakeholder communication training, primarily for utility-affiliated members
  • Encourage utility members to compete for the AWWA Communications Achievement Award

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE

Organize the section PAC to effectively reach section goals by:  

  • Having the PAC report directly to the section Board
  • Dealing with policy and organizational issues
  • Arranging for the PAC to liaise with the Section Water Utility Council
  • Assigning the action items to be carried out by committees of the PAC, (or subcommittees of the Committee) or by task forces, all of which would report to the PAC
  • Endeavoring to have each committee undertake a limited, achievable set of tasks related to specific PAC goals
  • In sections with limited capacity, dividing the PAC tasks among other existing committees, thus engaging the entire Section in the public affairs program
  • Including the Section paid staff in the planning and execution of the program

Suggested task oriented committees, each of which would report to the PAC:

  • Media Relations
  • Stakeholder Communications
  • Training
  • Awards

Many sections already have committees that provide these functions. In these cases, all that may be needed is for these established committees to have a liaison representative from the PAC to ensure progress on the PAC program.


TASKS/ACTIVITIES

It should be stressed, that it will take years to build an effective public communications program. The following therefore, represents a list of possible tasks to perform, and each Section should do what it can, even if it is only a little each year. Although organized by committee, each function can be assigned to any existing committees if that is more convenient for the section.

Media Relations Committee

  • Identify and enlist Section members as Experts on water-related issues to serve as spokespeople
  • Develop a template for an expert resource guide for use by the spokespeople.
  • Identify and train section spokespeople to serve as experts on water-related issues
  • Prepare lists of media (press, radio, TV) contacts
  • Develop position briefings on section core messages
  • Develop core messages and talking points on local and key issues
  • Establish Section-wide media contacts (Provide experts names and subject matter to specific
  • State/Regional/Provincial/Territorial wide media outlets)
  • Develop a Section Rapid Response task force comprised of experts and others who have received media training to respond to national and local water related news events by quickly developing a response position (based on core messages), and then communicating it to established media contacts
  • Track section media placements

Stakeholders Communications Committee (include liaison with the Section WUC)

  • Promote the need for section utility members to communicate core messages to/with the media and stakeholders, explaining why it is important
  • Participate in coordinated AWWA event such as Washington, D.C. Fly-In and national media outreach campaigns.
  • Develop a generic utility communications program, including material (based on core messages).
  • See the separate document titled “Sample Utility Communications Program”
  • Train utility members on how to deliver their own program
  • Arrange for utility members to receive media and stakeholder communication training.

Training Committee

Possible ideas for implementation:

  • Arrange for training sessions at ACE (at a cost)
  • PAC to develop a training program for implementation at the utility oriented conferences (at a cost)
  • PAC to develop a “canned” program to train section leadership as trainers to their section utility members (implement at RMSOs, ACE, or other suitable venue)

Awards Committee

  • Develop a section Communications Achievement Award (modeled after the AWWA award)
  • Encourage utility members to enter the award contest
  • Select an award winner and runners up each year
  • Arrange for the winner each year to enter the AWWA Communications Achievement Award contest for that year (this will require careful timing of the section contest)

SPECIFIC AWWA SUPPORT & MATERIAL

The following lists represent proposed and/or existing tools to be used by the section and its utility members in delivering their messages. 
This toolkit may contain the following:

Materials

  • Fact Sheets 
  • Public Affairs Resource Center (located in Press room)
  • Online Consumer Water Center
  • Sample press releases
  • Sample communications plan
  • Generic talking points
  • Generic 15-20 minute speech
  • Generic student “talk”
  •  Generic position briefings
  • Rapid response material
  • Utility tool kit

Media and stakeholder relations training

  • Conference programs
  • Train section leaders program (via RMSOs)
  • Crisis communications seminars
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