Disgust, fear, misinformation, confusion, and scary headlines. All reasons to want to keep our collective heads down on biosolids, according to participants at a session on biosolids I delivered at WEFTEC 2022 in New Orleans last week. But, putting our heads down is the last thing we should be doing right now.
Now more than ever we should be communicating, loud and proud, about biosolids. That view is shared by industry leaders within the Water Environment Federation, who hired us last year to develop the Biosolids Communications Toolkit. The toolkit is a vital resource for communicating about biosolids in ways that are factual, science-based, and easily understandable by those who might be hearing about them for the first time.
As experts in biosolids, utilities should be the first in their community to communicate about them. Research consistently shows that what we read or see first on a topic has an enormous impact on shaping our beliefs about it. Utilities that communicate proactively are more trusted by their customers than those that only communicate when they are obligated to do so by regulators.
When you communicate proactively about biosolids, it:
The toolkit is chock full of content to get you on the right path. A few high points include:
Where to start? The toolkit offers the top 10 relatively easy things that utility communicators can do RIGHT NOW to get their communications program moving.
Just like any successful project, communication and outreach must start with a proactive, strategic plan that includes measurable objectives, is grounded in research, and is evaluated to ensure there’s a return for your time and money.
Partnering with like-minded, or similarly missioned organizations is a strong strategy to raise awareness of biosolids and their beneficial use. This way, you’re tapping into a group that already has an established and trusted relationship with the audience(s) you are trying to reach.
Science-based communications can be a challenge, given the low percentage of the population with science degrees. We created messages that offer the science and facts in terms and phrases that are accessible to all audiences. Rest assured that subject matter experts reviewed this messaging to ensure accuracy.
Current social science shows that people process information differently when they are under stress. The toolkit provides science-based guidance on the topic of risk communications. Risk communications techniques help communicators facilitate productive conversations with stakeholders experiencing high anxiety or fear.
Don’t just listen to us – read stories of your colleagues from across the country who have seen the rewards of proactive biosolids communication. These include well-known entities including the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Great Lakes Water Authority, and King County, WA.
Sometimes it can be tough moving from theory to practice – that’s why the toolkit includes sample materials to show you how these strategies, tactics, and messages work in action. Toolkit appendices include sample FAQs, a fact sheet, a Q&A cheat sheet, design guidelines, and other valuable tools to get you well on your way to success.
Whether you’re already communicating proactively about the benefits of biosolids, or thinking about doing so, download your free copy of the Biosolids Communications Toolkit today!