Create an “Active” Tour Experience
In order to create a memorable experience, make sure your guides will engage the participants, instead of simply providing a lecture. Find ways to show the attendees how the wastewater treatment and/or stormwater management process works by going through the steps, while highlighting the history or innovative technologies, and be sure to ask for questions. Throughout the tour, allow the legislator to interact with staff members to learn more about the facility/project and its features.
If possible, allow the legislator to physically participate in the tour, for example seeing various elements of the facility up close and examining the computer screens in the control rooms. This allows for attendees to truly get a feel for the work that goes on at the facility, as well as provide an excellent photo opportunity.
At the same time, the interest in and tolerance of the type of facilities we operate will vary, depending on the person. Some may be extremely interested, while others may balk or be sensitive to areas where odors are high. These factors should be taken into account when planning or conducting the tour.
Establish a Comprehensive Narrative
As stewards of public health and the environment, you have an important story to share so plan to include narrative to the common questions you may cover during the course of the tour. For instance, the legislator will likely ask about the basics of the treatment/management process, recent investments, jobs and economic impact, and your role in the community. To create a more compelling narrative structure, consider including these aspects in your talking points:
- Success Stories – Discuss the history of the facility and how your systems have improved over the years. Touch upon the positive and negative effects that certain legislation or regulations have on the operations of your utility.
- Jobs – Go over the number of employees you have at the facility, as well as the number of utility workers throughout the city. Expand upon the types of jobs and if you provide advancement opportunities for staff. Also note how many jobs your utility ultimately supports in the broader community by ensuring safe and clean water. You should also be prepared to discuss the number and range of businesses that depend on the community sewer system for their wastewater treatment needs.
- Innovative Technologies – Does your plant utilize innovative technologies found nowhere else in the United State? Emphasize what makes your facility unique, such as energy production, biosolid generation, or environmental improvement.
- Community Impact – In what ways does your utility interact with the community you serve? Are there outreach programs within your community? Expand upon what makes your utility an integral part of the community beyond purely serving a public health need.
Social Media Considerations
If you have a solid social media presence, consider utilizing these platforms to broadcast the tour as it takes place (be sure to let the Member of Congress’ staff know). For example, several social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow users to “go live” and broadcast events taking place in real time. Also, be sure you promote the tour in advance and highlight its success afterward. If you do not have strong social media presence, consider starting an account before the tour because legislator visits and media presence tend to enhance participation.