Establish Planning Team
If your facility has not customarily provided tours in the past, you may want to create a committee to thoughtfully plan the logistical aspects of the tour, including its length, which features of the facility/project to highlight, and who will meet with the attendees. If you plan to host members of the press on a tour with a Member of Congress, you also should craft welcoming remarks for the elected official and give an overview of the topics you plan to cover on the tour.
From start to finish, you will want to create a welcoming environment that is interesting, informative, and safe for visitors. Reserve a room at your facility where the legislator can address the staff, make sure there is a podium and microphone. Brief the tour guide(s) on the logistics of the tour. It may help to craft a tour script to share with the guides and other staff that will participate in the tour. Before the tour begins, make sure each member of the group has the necessary safety equipment (I.e. helmets, safety vests), name badges, and brief the tour guide(s) on the logistics of the tour.
In addition to the logistical planning, it is critical to have informational resources that legislators and their staff can refer to once the tour has ended, such as a one-pager with facts and figures about your utility. In fact, send briefing materials to the legislator ahead of the tour, especially if there is an “ask” planned for the visit. Researching your guest’s biographical, political, and legislative background, including clean water bills and votes and the Committees they serve on, can also help highlight relevant areas of interest. NACWA is happy to help provide relevant background on any Members of Congress at your request – just contact NACWA Government Affairs staff. By emphasizing your utility’s accomplishments, it is easier to establish the role of your utility in the community and your vision for the future. Try to utilize real-world examples to highlight the effects of Clean Water Act regulations, rather than purely statistical data.
Preparing for Media Presence
If you plan to host members of the media at your facility, there are a few additional aspects to consider before the tour. First, make sure to clear the media presence with legislator/staff attending the tour. If they agree, contact local media outlets, such as large daily newspapers and local TV stations, as well as smaller, local media outlets.
Another opportunity to address the media is by drafting a media advisory, which includes the salient points of the tour (i.e. date, time, location). Include other key points, such as whether the legislator will take questions or if the tour itself is open to coverage, and send a copy of the press release to the lawmaker’s office to review before sending to media outlets. In addition to the stage and podium, you may want to consider featuring your utility’s logo or other promotional material during press coverage.