Any way the wind blows. Great lyric, poor communication strategy. According to a book called the Creative Process Illustrated, there are six distinct dimensions of the creative process in advertising. One of the dimensions is rhythm and when reading the description, we couldn’t help but see the parallels to successfully communicating a consumer request program for lead testing. Bear with us.
Rhythm in the creative process is about balancing deadlines with the fact that creativity doesn’t always work on a timeline. We can’t will our minds to be creative. Creativity needs space. From a programmatic perspective, we don’t always get the time we want to prepare our program launches as perfectly as we want. We also rarely control the environment where we’re creating the program. Whether your consumer request program is a proactive move or in response to public concern communication is a critical element of the implementation process.
Let’s break it down.
“There’s just something comfortable in following a protocol that’s tested and true.”—Creative Process Illustrated.
One element of the rhythm dimension in the creative process is taking it step by step. The first step in creating a consumer request program is to have a plan. Developing a consumer request program is going to be a change for both your customers and your employees. The goal should be to create transparency and demonstrate your organization’s passion for protecting public health. Don’t let poor communication derail a positive into a negative. A plan keeps messaging consistent to avoid confusion which can quickly escalate to anger. Your plan should also account for internal communication so your staff is on the same page and doesn’t feel blindsided by the change.
Do this: Ask. Not this: Sitting, waiting, wishing.
Just like a designer or copywriter in an ad agency has no control over clients, utilities have no control over consumers. A solid plan begins with a clear understanding of your audience. Have you asked (re: surveyed) what your community thinks about the proposed program? Do you know how they feel about your organization? As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even something as positive as a consumer request program can be misconstrued into something else entirely. Do the homework and survey your community so you know your audience before you start crafting your plan.
“You can do this.” Coping with fear and doubt.
Change is scary. These feelings are natural but knowing your why is the antidote to fear. Your why is bigger than your mission. Most utility mission statements read something like “to provide a safe, reliable drinking water source….” That statement explains what you do, not why you do it. Water utilities safeguard the health of every man, woman, and child in their community. That’s more in line with why you do what you do. Remember this when you read snarky comments on NextDoor or get questioned at city council. Remember your why and let it strengthen your resolve.
“The goal is to do the best work in the time allotted.”
Don’t let the unfair expectations of perfectionism bring you to a standstill. Your plan should be simple and fluid. Don’t spend years on a plan that is 100 pages long and outdated the second it’s deemed final. Keep the 100 pages as appendices if it provides data and information that is of value. Keep what you actually want to accomplish succinct and concise. Keep in mind that timelines are effective at keeping projects moving forward, but your consumers are human and humans need time to process change. Be patient, but stay nimble.