Case Study

City of Wadsworth, Communication to the Public

The Context

As one of 100 U.S. cities that earned an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to implement a “Smart Grid” program (i.e., installing advanced water and electric meters in 12,000 households), the City of Wadsworth wanted to help its residents embrace and take advantage of this advanced technology, which would enable more accurate water and electricity meter readings. However, in other communities across the nation that received similar federal grants, communication missteps and perceived downsides to the program had derailed or caused difficult implementation. City officials asked the strategic marketing agency Fahlgren Mortine to help it plan an effort to educate residents about this program.

The Critical Questions

Overall, what was public opinion toward this technology and its implementation? What did residents perceive to be the primary benefits and drawbacks of this technology?

Our Solution.

Our research team organized and conducted a telephone survey of 250 citizens. Because this method relied on representative sampling, the survey results could be generalized back to the underlying population – a far more reliable and accurate method than simply listening to the relatively few members of the public who may speak at a City Council meeting or other public gathering.

Illumination

A careful analysis of the survey results revealed that the majority of respondents had positive attitudes regarding key attributes of this technology, including more accurate meter readings and faster response to service needs.

Resolution

Using the information and insights suggested by the research, the City’s strategic marketing agency helped the City design and implement an intensive effort to engage and educate the community. City officials said the quality of the research was a key factor in being able to successfully roll out the program, meeting the needs of residents, and being prepared to answer any questions and address any concerns. Today, the City offers an expanding number of educational and cost-savings programs to both residents and businesses.