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To support the goals of the Division, the Committee is launching a blog on the TAWWA.org website to highlight existing utilities and programs across the state. This blog will provide valuable information on existing programs and highlight how more information on the programs can be obtained, thus creating an online database of water education resources.

 

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How to Throw a Killer 100 Year Birthday Party for your Water Utility

Posted By Karen E. Menard, Tuesday, October 31, 2017

 

Education Division – Consumer Outreach Committee Blog

 

All Things H2O                             November 2017 Issue

 


 

 

How to Throw a Killer 100 Year Birthday Party

for your Water Utility

 

2017 marks 100 years of water utilities in the City of Mansfield. We saw this as an incredible opportunity to engage and celebrate with our customers. More importantly, it was an opportunity to truly put the mission statement of our education plan into action.

 

 

The 100-year birthday party portion of the celebration was a community event that included several life-sized family-friendly games. The games all had an educational component; think Hungry Hungry Hippos as Thirsty Thirsty Rain Barrels or Chutes and Ladders as Poops and Splatters (infrastructure game) or Battleships as Battle Dig (811). A few weeks later we had a book launch to release the commemorative 100-year book that we wrote. This book told the story of how we interact with water today and how that is tied to the history of Mansfield. The book was focused entirely on the core messages in our Water 360 education plan.

 

We had such a great time we decided to share our story as a case study. Here are six ways to throw a killer party for your Water Utility.

 

1. Start with the End in Mind.

Start with your why. Why are you doing this? Our birthday wasn’t just an opportunity to throw a party. It fell right in line with the community focused portion of our education plan’s mission: to be a trusted ally for our customers. Trust is earned in many ways, but a key way is to build relationships. The birthday events afforded us the opportunity to do so by spending time with our customers face to face.

 

2. Get the Whole Family Involved.

 

Jeff Price, our Director of Water Utilities, wanted this to be more than just an educational communication event. If we were going to celebrate our birthday, we were going to get everyone involved. As part of a team building activity, the entire division came in early to brainstorm the various games. We shared with them the mission and goals of the event and tasked them with brainstorming how each game would be played and what materials would be needed to build each game.

 

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty.

 

The week following the initial brainstorm session, the division regrouped again into their teams to build and test the games. They built cornhole games, cardboard box bricks for Angry Larvae (aka Angry Birds), a life-sized PVC billiards game, and more. The education team tested out these games and troubleshooted any changes that needed to occur.

 

4. Be More like Mr. Rogers.

 

Who are the people in your neighborhood? Find out. Go make partnerships! Creations Bakery, a local bakery, made us the official 100-year birthday cupcake for our birthday party event. Our meter vendor, Master Meter, sponsored a mechanical bull and dunk tank for the party. First Methodist Mansfield ran the dunk tank and helped us collect funds for Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts. Our Mayor, Police Chief, and Code Enforcement Manager took one for the team and got in the dunk tank to inspire the crowd to raise funds.

 

5. “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” (my obligatory Hamilton shout out)

 

You have a great story to tell. It’s there. You may have to dig around a little and it may not turn out the same as you thought it would at the beginning. We started with the idea of doing a 100-year anthology like Time Magazine does each year. As we started researching, what we unearthed was not an anthology. There were too many empty spaces to fill. We went back to our education plan and decided to use our core learning strands/messaging. We ended up with a book that told water’s story based on our six learning strands and we weaved in Mansfield’s story into that context. Tell your story. If you make it high level and interesting, it will serve as a way to engage with your customers.

 

6. “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody.”

 

We wrote a book and threw a book launch for it. We invited retired employees to make them a part of the celebration and in turn it felt like a family reunion. We invited vendors and consultants that have been with us as we’ve grown and who enable us to do our work every day. Celebrate your team, your accomplishments, your milestone events. No one else is going to do that for you. Celebrate your people and make sure you tell them why. Don’t forget the why! If you’re reading this blog, you’re already a water ambassador. You get it. You understand the value of water; from the resource to the infrastructure to the people in the field and in the office. The problem is, the people you’re celebrating may not even fully understand what that means. Water professionals must get better at communication. In the 2017 AWWA State of the Industry Report, two of the top five challenges facing our industry are related to the public’s lack of understanding of water resources and of the value of water. However, step one is ensuring that internally that message is also clear. How can we be ambassadors when many of us don’t understand the value of water ourselves? Lead with your why. It’s what drives your culture and your morale. We can’t convince the rest of the world about the value of water if we don’t believe it ourselves.

 

Whether you have a 100-year anniversary or a crew being recognized or a new treatment plant, celebrate and invite your community to celebrate with you. You may be surprised at who shows up if you make it interesting. Tell them how it ties to THEIR story. Make it personal. We would have been happy if 50 people showed up to our birthday party. We had 200 people show up. On our Facebook event page, 350 people said they were interested. Can we pause and let that sink in for a minute? These 350 people marked interested on a birthday party for a water department. We made it interesting. We provided games for their families and they were able to interact face to face with our employees, the men and women who ensure the health of their families every day. A picture may be worth a thousand words, a video may be worth more but interactions like those are priceless.       

 

About the Author:

Stephanie Zavala is an Education Specialist in the Water Utilities Division of the City of Mansfield and the Keep Mansfield Beautiful Coordinator.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business as a Master’s in Environmental Science from Texas Christian University.  In 2015 she became a Certified Public Communicator through TCU’s School of Strategic Communication.  She has been in the environmental outreach and education field for nine years.  Her programs and outreach efforts won several awards from the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association in 2015, and she also won the 2015 Public Educator of the Year award for the region from the Texas Water Utilities Association. 

Tags:  birthday party  customers  education plan  Stephanie Zavala  water utility 

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