AMI Public Education and Outreach Campaign
The City of Cedar Park is one of the fastest growing cities in Central Texas. Rapid population growth coupled with persistent drought made residents increasingly aware of their water quality, usage and availability.
Customers were especially curious about their water use in the summer of 2010 when the City experienced an unprecedented number of complaints about unexpected high bills. Locally dubbed “Watergate,” the incident led the City to seek tools to give customers more information on their water usage.
Through an exploratory process and due diligence City leaders and staff voted to install advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology, commonly known as smart meters. Between Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 the utility installed 22,000 new residential digital meters. To make the most of this investment, the City understood the need to get customers to see value in and adopt the technology.
Hahn Public was brought on as a communications partner to help Cedar Park to:
- Inform customers of the benefits of AMIs
- Educate customers about using the customer web portal
- Encourage customer adoption of the AMI and customer web portal
In order to execute the campaign, the Hahn Public team used proven models of communications, behavioral psychology and primary research to design persuasive messages that would compel customers toward a desired action or goal – in this case, getting a minimum of 1,000 customers to sign up to the web portal.
This program included building case studies of other cities that have initiated similar public outreach campaigns for AMI deployment; understanding models such as social norming and diffusion theory that could help motivate customers toward the desired behavior change; and in-depth interviews with Cedar Park city staff.
This research program allowed for campaign messaging and accompanying creative assets that were artistic, raised awareness and incorporated a compelling call to action — “YOU’RE RUNNING THE SH2OW CEDAR PARK!” The campaign centered on giving the customer control over their bills and usage via access to the web portal. Messages also focused on three main benefits to customers from signing on to the web portal — near real-time water usage data, alert set-ups and the ability to detect continuous flow or leaks.
Another important goal was to simplify outreach messages to demystify fears associated with AMIs. We addressed concerns of privacy and security — identified in our benchmarking case-study research — in the Frequently Asked Questions, customer service representatives script and talking points for city and utility spokespeople in media interviews. Each of these provided an opportunity to debunk any false claims using data from credible and respected government and university sources.
Once the campaign slogan, messages and creative were decided upon, we strategically placed advertisements in popular community newspapers, online news media outlets and social media from August to October 2017. As a result, there has been positive response from customers and we have exceeded campaign goals.
- 1,031 accounts have been created since campaign launch.
- Digital ads on popular local news media websites recorded a click-through rate of .08 percent for 141 clicks to date. Average click-through rates vary by industry and by ad type, but generally 0.05 percent is an acceptable standard.
- Facebook advertisements recorded more than 22,145 people reached.
- An animated video to explain the new technology and web portal reached over 5,643 people through Facebook and YouTube.