I started working in public affairs at a time when sending a press release meant thumbing through the trusty rolodex, and then standing over the fax machine for hours, punching numbers while it screeched away.
Technology has changed a lot about the logistics of communications, but its heart remains the same. Reporters and their readers still want a good story. Something they can relate to, something that makes them feel.
We think a lot about feelings at the Water Hub. Engaging hearts and heads is one of the values that guides our work because science shows that emotions influence decisions.
In a time when audiences are overwhelmed by news of the pandemic, political conflict, and climate change, how can we tell water stories that will draw people in and inspire them to act?
That, in a nutshell, is the goal of the Water Hub.
The idea for our program came from Water Funder Initiative, which has identified communications as a core capacity to build political will and advance water solutions. Their research found that water news tends to be highly technical and largely negative.
Those were precisely our takeaways from our recent landscape assessment. We interviewed 100 advocates and experts about what’s needed to create a more just and resilient water system. Time and again, we heard that people are tired of the hand-wringing and finger-pointing, and eager for more human and hopeful stories.
We know the West is facing real challenges. The climate is getting drier, our infrastructure is aging, and the COVID-19 crisis has brought even more urgency to long-standing water safety, affordability, and access gaps. We’re not here to ignore this reality, but rather to shift the narrative with solution stories that show what’s possible when lawmakers put public health over corporate profits, and communities come together to solve shared problems.
We have had the privilege, over the past couple months, of working with groups outlining a vision for water progress, advocating for an end to water shutoffs in California, supporting COVID relief in New Mexico’s Tribal and Pueblo communities, and lifting up the history of handwashing as the most important public health intervention of modern times.
We would love to work with you this year to tell stories that outline a path forward on water in your community, and build support for the projects and policies needed to get us there. Please drop us a line if you have communications needs the Water Hub might be able to support.