Northern Water

Berthoud, Colorado, United States

The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) is Northern Water’s $1.1 billion water project to deliver sustainable water supplies to the million residents in Northern Colorado today, and the half million more that are projected to live there by 2050.

Raftelis was asked to assist Northern Water’s accomplished communications staff with developing a Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Plan, and we have since been retained to assist with implementing the plan.

The detailed Strategic Plan included specific goals and objectives, along with messaging, tools, and tactics required for successful implementation. A few examples:

Research revealed that individuals who will benefit from the project’s successful completion were not making the mental connection between improved water security and its importance in maintaining quality of life in the region. To help build understanding of the benefits of the project one of the plan’s goals was to help create an emotional attachment to the value of a reliable, sustainable water supply.

Strategies to achieve that goal included investing in brand photography to ensure images are engaging, people-centric, and authentic; using key messages that were developed to be more consumer-friendly and incorporating “value of water” messages at every opportunity.

Tactics included developing a fresh set of communications tools and collateral that were consistent with these strategies, including converting existing text heavy pieces to infographics and short issue/fact videos.

Results to-date show significant progress on this front – anecdotally, individuals who previously had not spoken up in support are now doing so with increased frequency. More and more Northern Water is seeing the connection being made that an increasing population will require NISP and the water security it will provide.

In addition, as with many long-ranging massive infrastructure projects research showed that, for many stakeholders, the nearly two decades of planning and permitting, along with high-profile legal challenges, left some stakeholders to wonder if the project would ever come to fruition. Northern Water’s plan set a goal to “Ensure Northern Water speaks about NISP in a way that shows continual progress.” Strategies included creating mini public relations plans to celebrate key milestones and finding ways to leverage and publicize findings of experts from permitting agencies. Tactics included traditional activities such as issuing news releases, including announcements in Northern Water’s existing owned media channels, creating, and sharing content on social media, etc.

Results can be seen on the engagement that nearly every social media post receives. Prior to implementing the plan, comments trended negative and from the same group of project opponents. Today, project opponents still comment, but NISP supporters respond to the hyperbolic rhetoric with facts and comments that call for construction to begin immediately for the benefit of current and future generations.