Water Meter Partners
City of Detroit, Water & Sewage Dept.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) undertook a program, known as the Detroit Water Automated Reading (AMR) Program to replace or upgrade the water meters in all 275,000 Detroit residences and 3,000 businesses served by DWSD. The new meters could be read remotely and promised to eliminate the need for estimated bills that many residents strongly objected to.
Berg Muirhead was a member of the team, Water Meter Partners, which was chosen in a competitive bid process to carry out the installation of the water meters. Berg Muirhead’s role on the team was to manage all communications activities – a major assignment because the replacement effort directly affected every household in the city and included a need to enter the basement of every home to make the needed change.
When the AMR effort was experiencing difficulty securing response on the near northeast side, an extensive outreach effort was launched in target zip code 48205 with a two-sided flyer explaining the AMR program was open to all customers on the east side and inviting them to an installation block party. This mailing was sent to 12,356 households.
The agency also hand-delivered 54 AMR Countertops brochure holders with Installation Alerts in various highly visible locations throughout the targeted cycle areas including community centers, churches, civic and community organizations, Neighborhood City Halls, as well as public libraries. These colorful, eye-catching countertops publicized the AMR project and were placed where visitors could easily see them often right on the business counters.
This comprehensive, grass roots focused communications program resulted in substantial participation in the AMR program throughout the city.
Berg Muirhead developed a comprehensive communications program designed to assure that the community was well informed about the AMR program before it began. We conducted focus groups to determine the receptivity of residents to having a new water meter installed in their home and to determine which aspects of the program were most appealing to them.
Based on this research, we developed a comprehensive communications plan that began with a city-wide mailing explaining the program to every DWSD customer and home renter in the city, a total of 274,584 households. The mailer was produced in English, Spanish and Arabic.
After the initial mailing, a second Installation Alert was mailed when an installation team was preparing to work in a specific area of the city, which was divided into 31 separate work areas. Customers were able to make an appointment by either mailing in a tear-off card attached to the Installation Alert or by calling a toll free number. The installation alert was followed by a second notice post card and door hangers distributed to homes who did not respond to the initial contact.
Berg Muirhead also made presentations and/or distributed AMR materials and answered questions at 10 citywide and neighborhood meetings throughout Detroit engaging with more than 600 Detroit residents. In addition, inserts were included with DWSD water bills to remind customers of the AMR program.
Berg Muirhead also implemented an aggressive media outreach campaign to inform and educate the community about the AMR project, to answer community questions regarding this new technology and to allay any fears regarding damage and/or privacy. This effort generated numerous articles and news reports.
The earned media component of the program was supplemented with an advertising effort that ran on news-talk and urban radio stations and print ads that ran in ethnic newspapers.
In addition, Berg Muirhead provided ongoing information and quarterly updates regarding the AMR program by providing web content for the project web site: www.detroitwateramr.com.
To expand the reach of the AMR message to community “influencers” Berg Muirhead compiled databases and mailed information packets to community, business and faith-based leaders throughout the AMR project. Berg Muirhead reached more than 13,500 community and faith-based leaders, business owners and DWSD customers through these mailings.