11 Outreach Strategies for Potable Reuse

Posted on in Best Practices, Katz Konnection, Public Involvement, Water

Potable_Water_Reuse_IDIn general, the public’s perception about recycled drinking water can be summed up in a few (and sometimes negative) catch-phrases. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years to begin to turn-around these perceptions:

  1. Start with research: Who are your audiences? What do they think? What do they understand?
  2. Get the language right: Do not assume your audiences know anything about potable water or how their water supply is maintained for their benefit.
  3. Talk tech, but do it briefly and simply: Photographs, graphics, and simplified descriptions have been proved to aide communication success.
  4. Build alliances: A coalition of supporters can create a powerful bandwagon that can attract members of their own circles of influence.
  5. Query your team’s attitudes: When identifying stakeholders and audiences, make sure your own employees are at the top of the list. Find out what they think or what they need to know.
  6. Promote two-way communication but manage expectations: Invite input where it can be used, but set realistic expectations for how input will be incorporated.
  7. Develop a message platform: The ultimate message goal is for people to see potable reuse as an acceptable alternative because they have been well informed in a transparent way.
  8. Use graphics and videos: Given the complexity of reuse projects, clear graphics will be tremendously valuable in helping customers visualize a project and understand technical aspects.
  9. Establish a news bureau: Get ready for media relations and develop a rapid response plan to address misinformation or misunderstanding.
  10. Use social media judiciously: It can be helpful, and can be dangerous. Understand it’s power and be strategic.
  11. Touring is believing: Solid graphics are great; hands on experiences are even more powerful. Where demonstration or touring is possible – make plans early.
Adapted from “Getting to Yes, Public Outreach for Potable Reuse: Bring the Public to a New Level of Acceptance.” Sara M. Katz and Patricia A. Tennyson, Journal AWWA, November 2015.

Reaching Businesses and Residents the Old School Way

Posted on in Best Practices, Community Outreach, Construction Relations, Katz Konnection


New infrastructure can be progressive and much-needed for reliability, safety and quality of life. But construction can cause frustrations for commuters, residents and businesses who are only seeing it as road work and a maze of detours. Due to the high impact of road closures required for construction of 11 miles of drinking water pipelines, the City of Fresno’s Recharge Fresno Program team has focused on field outreach and doorhangers as a primary method for ensuring impacted residents and businesses know what to expect during construction.

The water pipelines, called the Regional Transmission Mains, currently in construction along congested business corridors and residential areas, will bring a new source of surface water to a community that has historically relied on groundwater. For the safety of construction crews, full road closures are required during construction, including sidewalk, bus stop, parking lane and driveway closures. While social media and media outreach with the City of Fresno’s communications department have been helpful in communicating to passersby and commuters, a tailored doorhanger distribution approach has been successful in notifying residents and businesses along the pipeline route – the most severely impacted properties.

For this project, the outreach team worked closely with CH2M during the design and construction phases to develop a comprehensive series of notifications, including one mailed postcard and five doorhangers to notify all properties along the alignment. Two weeks and 72 hours before traffic control goes into effect in a new section of work, all properties in the section receive a mailed postcard and then a final doorhanger 72 hours before. Three more reminder doorhangers are distributed daily and timed according to 72 hours before, 24 hours before and the day of driveways being blocked. A restoration doorhanger is left after the active construction is completed, and notifies property owners about paving and road restoration work in the coming weeks. This approach requires the contractor’s commitment up front, but it has led to more community cooperation because stakeholders are more informed. Click here to see an infographic describing this process.

Below are some key strategies that have helped with the success of the field outreach approach:

  • Keep It Organized: To stay organized, the construction contractors were given kits with seven different doorhangers (Monday through Saturday). When they know which day construction will impact a specific driveway, the corresponding doorhanger is distributed. Once construction in front of a driveway is complete, the final restoration doorhanger is distributed.
  • Translate All Notifications: Because construction is occurring in a very diverse community, all construction notices include information in English, Spanish and Hmong. City staff provided assistance with in-person field outreach and multicultural communication to ensure language is never a barrier to stakeholders receiving information.
  • Set Expectations: The doorhangers clearly identify the impacts and work hours in order to set realistic expectations. The goal of ongoing outreach is to avoid surprises and ensure accurate information despite a dynamic environment of active construction.
  • Give Reminders: Distributing the doorhangers 72 hours before, 24 hours before and the day of a driveway closure gives residents extra time for planning their daily access. It helps them plan to park on a side street and walk to their properties, notify customers about the change in access and ask for help if they have special access needs. The day-of doorhangers and in-person contact is the most important reminder and often allows residents one last chance to move vehicles.
  • Tie to the Big Picture: The team always likes to say that “it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.” The purpose and need for new water infrastructure is included in all project communication, in an effort to remind ratepayers that the reason for construction is much more significant than just tearing up the road.
  • Clearly Identify Contact Information: The outreach team fields calls through an information line and emails through a website contact form. Both options are included prominently on all notifications so stakeholders know how to reach the team, if needed.

More than half of the water pipeline has been constructed to date, and this comprehensive outreach approach has ensured residents and businesses have clear expectations, accurate information and identified team contact information throughout construction.

K&A Supports Multiple Public Meetings on East and West Coasts

Posted on in Community Involvement, Environment, Environmental Impact Statements, K&A Staff, Katz Konnection, Public Participation

From San Francisco to San Diego, and up and down the East Coast, our team has been on the move supporting a number of recent public meetings for Caltrain, the U.S. Navy and the City of San Diego. And while planning and executing public meetings is one of our many specialties, each project requires its own unique approach to achieving meaningful engagement with its stakeholders.

giphy (1)Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project

A series of public meetings for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project are currently underway, with the first of 11 public meetings held in San Bruno on July 13. In attendance was the mayor of South San Francisco, Caltrain council members and a member of the California State Assembly!  Our team will get to know many stakeholders along the peninsula corridor as this high-profile project gets rolling.

More about the project:  Over the last decade, Caltrain has experienced a substantial increase in ridership and anticipates further increases in ridership demand as the Bay Area’s population grows. Caltrain electrification, scheduled to be implemented by 2020/early 2021, will electrify and upgrade the performance, operating efficiency, capacity, safety and reliability of Caltrain’s commuter rail service.

giphy (2)U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing

These meetings were part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/ Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS). A series of meetings traveled down the East Coast, starting in Providence, Rhode Island on July 19 and ending in Panama City, Florida on August 3. The meetings provided an opportunity for the public to talk directly to subject matter experts and provide comments on the draft EIS/OEIS. In preparation for these meetings, our team developed seven fact sheets, five posters and six 5 ft. x 5 ft. fabric displays. We also created six videos based on these large graphics. The videos were shared on the project website to give those unable to attend the meetings a chance to participate virtually. The logistics of shipping the plethora of materials from location to location on a tight schedule was a challenge for our team, but they were up for it – nothing was late or lost in transit!

More about the project: The Navy has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) for Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) activities in the sea space and in the airspace over the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern coast of North America, portions of the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Navy has conducted previous analyses for these types of activities in the AFTT Study Area and signed a Record of Decision in November of 2013. This new AFTT EIS/OEIS analyzes the continuation of military readiness activities in the AFTT Study Area beginning in late 2018 into the reasonably foreseeable future.

IMG_1195City of San Diego De Anza Revitalization Plan

Last month, our Environmental & Public Participation team supported the sixth and last ad-hoc committee meeting for the De Anza Revitalization Plan. The project team presented two refined draft concept alternatives for discussion by the Committee. An Open House directly followed the meeting, allowing the public to review the alternatives in detail, ask questions and provide feedback on the identified uses and design for this northeast portion of San Diego’s Mission Bay Park. Due to the regional and diverse interests of the Project, the Open House drew over 240 people!

More about the project: The De Anza Revitalization Plan project, an amendment to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan, is a three-year comprehensive outreach and planning program designed to reimagine, repurpose and revitalize the northeast corner of Mission Bay Park in San Diego. The Mission Bay Park Master Plan does not provide specific land use concepts for the De Anza area, therefore, the City of San Diego initiated a special study that will result in an area-specific development plan. In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a rigorous community engagement plan is currently underway, giving community members and other stakeholders a chance to comment on the project’s alternatives and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Public Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Posted on in Community Involvement, Energy, Environment, Environmental Impact Statements, K&A Staff, Katz Konnection, Military, Public Participation, Water


Since early October our environmental outreach team has been on the road, conducting 22 public meetings for four clients, and traveling more than 5,000 miles in California, Nevada and Arizona. With all the moving parts, there were bound to be a few adventures along the way. And while we can’t control cows, horses and deer on the road, we do know solid public meeting planning takes months to complete – and that we can help steer!

photo4U.S. Navy – Fallon Range Training Complex Modernization – K&A held seven public meetings in five days, driving over 1,000 miles in central Nevada for the U.S. Navy’s proposed expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex. It’s an important training complex for naval aviators and special operations forces. The meetings drew in larger than expected crowds, but as K&A Environmental Director Tania Fragomeno says, “You just have to plan for the unexpected; bring along what you think you don’t need and prepare for questions that might not be asked. Part of putting on successful public meetings is preparing the team to speak confidently about the project.”

img_2986Just a few weeks later, K&A was off to the high desert of California, while other K&A team members were simultaneously off to Arizona, to conduct public meetings for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, respectively. The Twentynine Palms project focused on the Marine Corps’ proposed plan for relocating desert tortoises from training areas. Project managers Natalia Hentschel and Shannon Slaughter agree that anytime you can bring a good visual to the meeting, it’s a plus, to make the meeting more interactive and appeal to hands-on learners. For this project, two very special team members joined the series of meetings – Thelma and Louise. These rescued female Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) served as “project ambassadors” for the meetings, promoting the Marine Corps’ commitment to being good stewards of the environment.

kknewsletter_gif2Switching gears to power plants and coal mines, project manager Emily Michaelson had her hands full planning 11 public meetings for the Bureau of Reclamation. Most of these meetings for the Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine were held on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. The remote locations posed numerous logistical challenges – everything from multiple time zones within a region to a lack of phone reception or Internet access in areas where we needed to contact hotels, venues and vendors. “In cases like this,” says Emily, “always have a backup plan in place and allow plenty of time to coordinate logistics. This will help ensure your meetings go off without a hitch.”

20161107-deanza-sandra-wellhausen-014Closer to home, the City of San Diego’s DeAnza Cove Revitalization Plan project drew more than 600 people to Mission Bay Senior High School. This third workshop unveiled draft concept alternatives for revitalizing the De Anza Cove area of Mission Bay Park. Many San Diegans care about the future of this regional park and their input on the draft concepts is vital to the project’s success. For this reason, designing a workshop that allows all participants to access the information they need in an organized and comfortable manner in order to provide valuable feedback is critical. With a record turnout in the hundreds, project manager, Natalia Hentschel and the K&A team had to get creative with space. Every available area in the school, from the auditorium for a presentation to the cafeteria and courtyard for the Open House were used to accommodate the attendees and create an effective meeting environment.


Trading Timesheets for Time Off: A Farewell to K&A’s Joe Charest

Posted on in K&A Staff, Katz Konnection

By Marissa Twite, Intern


After 30 years in the public affairs industry and 12 years of service with Katz & Associates, Joe Charest, our Vice President, is retiring and embarking on the next journey of his life. I am new to Katz & Associates, just starting over three months ago, and at first I was at a bit of a loss of what questions to ask Joe about his career for this interview. But then, I learned more about the work Joe has accomplished. Over his 30-year career, Joe developed and implemented multi-disciplinary communication programs for a wide range of projects, built strong and lasting relationships with clients and coworkers alike, and has left a lasting legacy at Katz & Associates. Joe’s commitment to not just communicate answers, but to find actual solutions, conveyed to his clients that the message “helping others communicate effectively about things that matter” is really the core of our company’s values. He brought heart, humor and camaraderie to every relationship. It is clear that Joe has been an invaluable player for the Katz & Associates’ team; he will be sorely missed. And today I had the honor to sit down with Joe and reflect upon his time with us.

Marissa Twite: What was your first position at Katz & Associates?

Joe Charest: I came in as Vice President because I had many, many years of experience in other firms. So, I was able to step in pretty quickly to pick up some of the workload.

MT: Did you find the environment at your last agency different from the environment in this office? Or was it a pretty smooth transition?

JC: It was pretty much the same. One of the things that I find with agency employees in general is that they enjoy the work in a way people in corporations may not see the same way. I always say that what people in other communication fields see as stress, we see as a challenge. The variety of work here is what makes people like agency work. I think it’s something that you like or you don’t like, and if you don’t like it, you can move on to something else where you can relax a little more.

MT: You’ve worked on dozens of projects in this office alone. Do you have any favorites you worked on? Do any stand out?

JC: Well, there have been a lot of good ones. The Mid-Coast Trolley project is a project we are taking from start to finish. Way back in the beginning, we were working with the prime contractor in the design phase. Now, we are working on construction and, eventually, we will have a grand opening. I had the same experience with the Mission Valley East project, which was another trolley project for my former agency. I started with public meetings in the environmental review process, worked all the way through construction, and then had a grand opening for the first couple of train rides. That took about 6 years. It was very rewarding to see that done.

MT: How were you able to convey the message “helping others communicate effectively about things that matter” to clients? Is there any specific message you like to emphasize to clients?

JC: Well, I think you used the main word: message. The messaging we do is the key focus for every project. We focus on which message our client needs to convey to their various publics. If they are looking for approvals, how do they need to communicate that information? If they are looking for community acceptance, what are those key messages that talk about benefits to the community and the needs that will be filled by this project? We are in an industry that often finds people opposing or at least being concerned about a project until they get the answers that make them comfortable with it. So that critical stakeholder outreach remains our focus.

MT: That can be pretty challenging, I imagine.

JC: It is (laughs). But, it can be very rewarding. Another client I still work with is in the avocado industry. I’ve worked with both the California Avocado Commission and the Hass Avocado Board since 1993. I started working with them on crisis communications. They were concerned that avocados from Mexico would be allowed in the United States and would contain bugs that would damage the crops here in California, the heart of the avocado industry in the United States. We fought that battle for 10 years and now, Mexican fruit is accepted but with strict safeguards against importation of pests. That started as a crisis communications project, but we ended up doing a lot of consumer promotions and a lot of other things along the way

MT: It is very exciting/interesting that when you first start a project it is something completely different when you finish it.

JC: What Katz people do very well is build really strong client relationships. The longer you have a client, the more likely it will be to get additional assignments that may have nothing to do with where you first started. That’s a really good outcome and a really rewarding thing for both the client and the agency.

MT: I have noticed, while working with different account executives, that there is a very strong relationship between our agency and clients and I really admire that. But, when it comes to relationships with coworkers while working on a project, what was the most important message you tried to pass on to them?

JC: I think teamwork is the key thing. We don’t stand on titles here. I think mentoring young people is critical and also one the most fun things a manager can do to help someone break into an industry that interests them and help them grow. That teamwork aspect is terrific. This has always been a terrific environment for collegiality. I have seen many great people that have come in as interns grow and flourish over the years. I’ve been here almost 12 years now and there are many solid professionals still down the hall who are now in mid-manager and senior positions, doing really well. That’s a tribute to the agency that people are here for such a long time.

MT: I have noticed that, too. I’ve been working on-site at the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. The staff there started as interns as well and then stayed on with K&A.

JC: Yes, Sarah Rossetto is a great example, she is going on ten years and Tania Fragomeno even longer, Greg Parks, Sandra Wellhausen, others: good people staying a long time.

MT: Throughout your career, did you ever feel stuck or unmotivated? How did you overcome those feelings and has your strategy changed over the years?

JC: I’ve had times in my career where I didn’t feel the direction we were heading was going to be successful. That caused me to want to change, so that’s what I did. Generally, I think what makes good agency people is having a drive that keeps them going. It’s like they say, “if you have a job you really like, you don’t work a day in your life

MT: What is the biggest lesson you learned? What lessons would you like to pass on to others?

JC: I think it’s [the importance] of relationships, both internally and externally. The stronger relationship you have with clients, the longer they are going to be with you. The more you build internal relationships to help people grow, the longer people are going to be here and the more successful you are going to be as a team. That is number one for both sides of the business.

MT: What do you have planned next?

JC: I have a few plans, not too many, I don’t want to be busier in January than I am in December (laughs). But I’m looking at a few nonprofits in North County, where I live. I’ll start doing volunteer work there and that will kind of expand my circle of acquaintances in my home area. I’m going to do a little bit of travelling. I like going to jazz and blues festivals; I’ll do some of that. Probably some long distance driving to see a little more of this great country up close. And I’ve got family and three grandkids that I can spend more time with right here close to home. Maybe I’ll even get to do some freelancing for Katz & Associates along the way.

MT: What will you miss most about Katz & Associates?

JC: Absolutely the people and the relationships. The people I know here, I consider sincere friends. We have good, close relationships here. A number of those will continue after I leave the day-to-day work. If you are in an environment where the culture is one of cooperation and teamwork, that is a pretty good environment to be in All you have to worry about is client challenges and there are plenty of those.