A chorus of “We do!” should be the resounding reply!

michelle6Guest blog by Michele McKinney, Western Municipal Water District

Why, you ask? Hosting an open house at your agency’s treatment facility offers your customers a unique opportunity to see first-hand how one of the most critical public services is accomplished. And, it gives your agency a chance to message, not only about the service, but also about your planning, priorities and projects.

The CASA Communications Working Group shared some excellent ways to go about hosting a successful open house when members Michelle Powell of Union Sanitary District and Emily Barnett of Central Contra Costa Sanitary District presented at the workgroup’s meeting at CASA’s August conference. So, you might now be thinking, “Hmmm, maybe we really should do this!?” I agree. Especially if you’re an agency that has no direct billing (customers are billed via annual county property tax statements).

My agency, Western Municipal Water District, is the administrator for a joint powers authority treatment facility, where we’ve hosted this type of event. Ours was successful; it was more of a tour and Q&A session versus a full-blown open house.

I want to highlight some of the things that made Michelle and Emily’s work on their events successful and memorable in regard to best practices for outreach and communication. First, what’s the most important thing to do if you want to have a successful event? Plan, plan and plan some more. Plan at least 12 months in advance. After that, items that will make your event outstanding include:

  • get GM buy-in and help with promoting the event with staff
  • be prepared to make a decent investment to fund the open house costs
  • comprise your planning team from all departments
  • push to have managers as mandatory volunteers for the day of the event
  • promote the open house – invest in marketing and advertising
  • contact schools and school districts; enlist their assistance in promoting the event to students
  • offer tours – a must!
  • have a welcome booth
  • create lots of visuals and displays
  • provide free food and refreshments
  • incorporate fun

Kudos to Michelle and Emily and their agencies for coordinating such successful customer engagement via opening their doors. View their tips for conducting a successful open house and other communication tools on the CASA website.

There’s another major reason our agencies should consider hosting open house-type events for our customers… what do you think that is? Enter a comment with your guess!