Documentary Tells the Story
of the Truckee River

Challenge

When the historic legal document, the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA), was ready to be signed by 20 federal, state and local parties, we were put to the task to explain why this document was important to the public.

Communication Goals

  • To explain a complicated agreement—20 years in the making–among two states and several agencies in simple terms
  • To create understanding in the stakeholder communities

Diagnostic Stage:
Discovery

We researched all communication channels and the most effective methods to reach stakeholder communities.  Due to the complexity of the issues surrounding TROA, it was determined that storytelling would be the most effective method.  Therefore, we chose a short documentary to present the visual aspects and provide the appropriate format to explain this historic agreement.

We researched where opportunities existed for partnering in production and distribution.  We considered how to leverage a partnership for the widest distribution possible.   Along with KNPB, northern Nevada’s local public television station, Senator Harry Reid’s office and Truckee Meadows Water Authority, we determined we had a strong platform for outreach.

Prescribing Stage:
Strategy

We first outlined the story that needed to be told through a story-boarding technique.  We secured an experienced public television video production crew that taped numerous interviews with key stakeholders and those that made TROA possible.  We also filled in the facts and history by narration to concisely communicate the agreement details. It was determined that a half-hour format would produce the most opportunity for distribution.

The program explained the complicated 20-year history of TROA, including how U.S. Sen. Harry Reid brought all parties to the negotiating table, and the benefits to the water system and to residents of the Truckee Meadows.  It includes interviews with Sen. Reid, TROA negotiators and representatives from the signatory parties.

Apply & Re-Apply Stage:
Implementation

A launch party was held with all interviewees at KNPB preceding the first airtime.  TROA participants received copies of the documentary and were permitted to post on their respective websites. Distribution included all west coast public television stations and promotion of air times was accomplished through on-air promotions, press releases and emails to public broadcasting supporters.

For re-application, we also arranged for presentations of the show at local service clubs as well as secured permission to post the show to several public websites where it lives on today.

Evaluation

  • Development and production of a landmark documentary, Taming the Turbulent Waters
  • Aired on 25 public broadcasting stations on the west coast
  • The show received an international Telly Award for its production and storytelling qualities


Expanded Public Process Culminates in Customer Awareness

Challenge

To create a thorough public process for Reno’s largest water utility, Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s (TMWA) proposed action to switch all remaining flat-rate customers to a metered rate. We were to ensure all customer and community input was gathered and considered.

Communication Goals

  • Raise awareness of TMWA’s proposed action to switch all remaining flat-rate customers to a metered rate
  • Specifically solicit and address the concerns of flat-rate customers

Diagnostic Stage:
Discovery

All stakeholder groups were identified along with use of secondary research of primary communication channels for this type of information. The research shaped our recommended communication channels.

Prescribing Stage:
Strategy

In order to communicate with all stakeholders, methods and messages were determined that would resonate with each group. A detailed plan was developed, incorporating many strategies including; a series of public workshops, direct mail, media relations, a dedicated Web page, bill inserts and local advertising.

Apply & Re-Apply Stage:
Implementation

Over a six month period, we implemented all activities in the plan and tracked customer input and concerns.  The feedback was presented to the Board of Directors in open meetings on an ongoing basis.

Evaluation

  • With consistent communications, 1,200 customers, 10 percent of all metered addresses, voluntarily converted to the metered rate before the implementation date
  • Although originally threatened, no law suits were filed by long-time residents
  • Stakeholders came ready to support the conversion with a few simple negotiation points instead of being stalwart in their opposition.  Those included one more year added to the implementation date and a way to address the health of community trees, which created the Truckee Meadows Community Forestry Coalition. With a better understanding of the issues, the Board mitigated the implementation date one more year, to 2010
  • Our media relations efforts garnered more than $220,000 in earned media value