Public Affairs: A Conduit of Information
It may be one of the smaller departments, but Tampa Bay Water’s public affairs staff has a big impact with the community. It manages the numerous opportunities/channels that the public uses to interact with the regional water supply wholesaler, ensuring that these lines of communication remain open at all times.
One of the department’s main responsibilities is public communications, which includes everything from the agency’s Water News e-newsletter to the utility’s web site to social media channels. Tampa Bay Water’s web site (tampabaywater.org) is one of the larger initiatives. It includes 300 pages that are updated on a regular basis. Some 47,000 visitors checked out the site in 2014. Tampa Bay Water also regularly posts information on Facebook and Twitter and has a growing YouTube channel. And if traditional media needs an interview, the public affairs staff coordinates the request.
When Tampa Bay Water is out and about with the community, you can bet that is also public affairs at work. The department coordinates speaking engagements, coordinates and conducts facility tours, facilitates the utility’s participation in community events, holds community outreach meetings and coordinates staff to participate in the Great American Teach In.
Sometimes those public outreach efforts carry a lot of weight. For example, public affairs recently put together facility tours for the agencies that rate Tampa Bay Water’s creditworthiness. The credit rating agencies score the utility, which affects the interest rate when Tampa Bay Water needs to borrow money to build facilities. Public affairs has also hosted tours for dignitaries from Cyprus, Singapore, Israel, South Korea, the United States Department of State, and members of the United States and Florida legislature.
The public affairs department is also responsible for overseeing Tampa Bay Water’s intergovernmental program, which includes legislative, grant funding and regulatory policy initiatives. Those efforts include briefing state and Congressional legislators as well as meeting with state and local regulatory agencies. This section of public affairs is also responsible for administering the utility’s source water protection mini-grants. Combining public communications with intergovernmental affairs assures that the agency’s various communications efforts are coordinated.
Whether you are reading about Tampa Bay Water in the news or watching the board meeting online, you can thank Tampa Bay Water’s public affairs department for keeping the lines of communication open.