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To support the goals of the Division, the Committee is launching a blog on the website to highlight existing utilities and programs across the state. This blog will provide valuable information on existing programs and highlight how more information on the programs can be obtained, thus creating an online database of water education resources.


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T.A.P. on into 2018!

Posted By Karen E. Menard, Tuesday, January 2, 2018



Education Division – Consumer Outreach Committee Blog


All Things H2O                                January 2018 Issue





T.A.P. on into 2018!



It’s that time of year again. We’re all inspired to make changes for the upcoming year. Clean slate! There are plenty of blogs out there about things you can do to kickstart 2018. One of our favorites was from GovLoop that you can read here. We were tasked with coming up with some resolutions of our own; for the water industry that is. In 2018, we want you to think T.A.P.



T: Take a Break


Study after study shows our overscheduled multitasking habits are actually doing more harm than good. We aren’t making ourselves more productive by packing more and more into our brains and our schedules. Not only are we opening up ourselves to the possibility of more mistakes, we are also prohibiting our brains the space necessary to think creatively and solve problems. Our brains can run out of memory space the same way our phones and computers do.


This year fight the urge to go, go, go and schedule in some legit “me” time every day. That means disconnecting from your notifications, social media, and email--even if only for a quick bite or stroll. Have you ever noticed you get the best ideas when you’re in the shower or driving? While the brain is away, creativity will play. While the mind is wandering we have a great potential to hit the flow state. The flow state is a measurable, physical occurrence when brain waves slow. Author Steven Kotler wrote about the flow state in his book, “The Rise of Superman.” Kotler explains, “Since creativity is always recombinatory--the product of novel information bumping into old thoughts to create something startling new--being able to slip between thoughts quickly and combine them wildly enhances creativity at a fundamental level.”


So there you go, give your brain a break each day and you may discover the next breakthrough for the water industry.



A: Avengers: Communicate like one.


As a water utility you are tasked with some pretty lofty communication expectations. Your audience is everyone and your employees are no less diverse. That’s why we say when it comes to communication, remember the Avengers. On the customer side, you would never communicate with Spiderman the same way you would with Captain America. Spiderman is a high school student. He accidently came to his superhuman powers and is probably wary of that meter box because of the possibility of another spider bite. On the other hand, Captain America was born in 1917 and he wouldn’t understand any of your witty references on social media. I’m sure your customer service representatives can tell you a few Bruce Bannon aka Incredible Hulk stories. 


Internally, you are met with a similar challenge. You have your engineer minded Ironman, your Vision-esque public educator, your Captain America field operations veteran, and the young up-and-comer Quicksilver. Each one is coming at your organization from a different mindset and skill set. To be successful, you need to be adaptable and recognize that the success of your department stems from your ability to get everyone to work as a team.


Teamwork is what the Avengers are all about. They are all superheroes by themselves, but they can only save the universe when they all work together. If you feel like this is an area you lack in, don’t be afraid to ask for help. TAWWA’s Education Division would love to hear the challenges you're facing when it comes to communicating with your team and your customers. You’re input and feedback will help us create resources tailored to the needs of our members and that’s why we’re here. As George Hawkins, former general manager of DC Water said, communication is the cornerstone of everything we do at a water utility.



P: Partnerships: Get connected.


Last, but certainly not least, we end with partnerships. Make it a point in 2018 to get your team around a table and brainstorm a list of potential partnerships. Get creative. Partnerships allow your organization to do more with less. They also allow you to amplify your message and build relationships and trust with the community you serve. Need some examples?


Do you have an event coming up and want to include a fundraiser component? See if there are local community members already tied to the nonprofit you want to support that can handle the donation aspect. Want to host a 5k? Find a local running club to partner with.


Do you want to have a certification program for a specific genre of vendor you work with regularly but can’t afford to do it yourself? See if a local industry association or your water district will sponsor a regional one to cost share while gaining more participants. 


Do you have a big milestone event coming up? How can you get more business and community leaders involved and engaged so that they help spread the message to their fans and followers?


Is there another department in your city with an established program or audience that you can partner with to help spread your message to a new population base?


Marketing and communication are invaluable tools when communicating your message to the public, but nothing replaces personal engagement. If it’s not worth your time to show up and advocate for your organization, why should anyone else? No one tells your story better than you. Get out there and tell it.


So this year think T.A.P--Take a mind break, be an Avenger communicator, and build partnerships. But most importantly, remember who you are. You work for an organization that supports every job and every living organism in your community--water is life. As with many occupations, it’s a thankless one. We’d like to start 2018 from a place of gratitude and say thank you for everything you do every single day for the communities across Texas. Let TAWWA know how we can help you be your best in 2018 and beyond. Happy New Year!


About the Author:

Stephanie Zavala is CEO and Co-Founder of Rogue COE. Stephanie worked for various water utilities for ten years in the education and communication fields. She has a passion for creativity and community engagement. She excels at creating content that humanizes the men and women of the water industry and that makes water engaging for the everyday customer. Her proudest moments are writing a commemorative book and hosting a subsequent book launch for her former water utilities’ 100-year anniversary, as well as being a part of the first water utilities banquet at the city. Stephanie has received multiple awards in public education and communication from various agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas section of the American Water Works Association and the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.  Stephanie is a die-hard Horned Frog fan and has earned all of her degrees and certifications through her alma mater, Texas Christian University, including her Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurial Management and Marketing, a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and her Public Communicator certification. 



Tags:  communication  partnerships  resolutions  rogue coe  stephanie zavala 

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