Good Publicity Will Keep Consumer Happy
Advertising Is an Excellent Trouble Preventive for Private Plants—It Produces a Tolerant. If Not Friendly, Feeling Toward the Water Works Company—Has Proved Its Worth
THE following article again brings to the fore the subject so often referred to in FIRE AND WATER Engineering—the necessity for the water works to make confidants and friends of their consumers. There is no better way to gain the attention of the water users than through the medium of the daily press of their city or town, which is read by every one of them. The incidents cited in Mr. Shepperd’s article emphasize this fact.
The water company that keeps its affairs strictly to itself and does not let the public in on what the department has got to put up with to provide a constant supply of pure water, and that does not tell them about the little difficulties and troubles encountered, as well as what they are doing to provide pure water at reasonable cost, has about as much chance when trouble arises as an enemy concern in a country after war has been declared.
Pictured as a Heartless Corporation
The average consumer pictures the average water company as a heartless corporation using its great wealth and power to extort money from him for something that the water company gets free of charge. This opinion is frequently cast, cleaned and polished by unscrupulous politicians who would like to use the water works question as a stepping stone to office. Frequently, too, misguided newspapers indulge in an energetic campaign against private ownership of plants, not because they have any personal grievance against the private plant, but because of inaccurate data furnished by those having more than selfish ends to gain.
The Spark that Caused the Explosion
An example of what an incendiary spark may produce at just the proper moment, is clearly shown in the following incident in a large city, where the investment was nearly a million dollars. Lhe bonds and stock were way above par. The company had everything its own way and felt sure of the renewal of its contract., which was soon to expire. An Irish woman who kept a boarding house came in to beg the superintendent not to cut her water off; her boarders were on a strike and she couldn’t pay just yet. He was rough with her and cut. off the water. She appealed to the alderman of her ward, a fighting Irishman. He started to fight, and it spread like a prairie fire. The contract was not renewed. The city exercised its right to buy, and the company received eighty per cent, of its bonded indebtedness, while the stock, over a half million, was entirely wiped out; all on account of the lack of sympathy, or even consideration, of the water users.
Advertising Has Double Motive
There is a double motive in spending money for advertising. In the first place it forms a public opinion which if not entirely favorable is at least tolerant. Secondly, it at. least silences the papers used. It is surprising how advertisements issuing from a public service corporation are read. The average mind in absorbing the contents of an advertisement unconsciously asks itself “what are they trying to sell?” Where a concern having no selling motive in advertising publishes an advertisement of an educational nature, it is conspicuous.
Let your patrons in on what you are up against. You will then find them willing to bear inconveniences should an emergency arise.
The tone of the advertisement, of course, counts for a great deal. It should outline the various difficulties in operating the plant and how each is overcome. It should explain incidentally how costs of operation mount up. Nor should the reasons for and benefits of checking water waste be forgotten.
One Case of Effective Advertising
The advertising of one water company on this latter subject was so effective that many telephone calls were received during the year telling the company of leaking fire hydrants, of apparent leaks from underground pipes, and in one case, of a heavy flow of water from a broken main into a sewer manhole beneath the street surface.
The company in their advertising mentioned these different incidents, naming the party in each case who called the company up, and at the same time expressing appreciation of the co-operation.
The following abstract from an article appearing some time ago in “Advertising and Selling” seems to hit the mark exactly:
“That a street railway or lighting company should advertise in a community in which it enjoys an absolute monopoly still strikes many managers as absurd.
“The considerable number of managers of public service companies who have made an intelligent trial of it. however, take a very different view of the matter.
“Two distinct purposes seem to be at the bottom of the public service advertising movement—one to win the good will of the citizen and the other to increase business.
“Advertising has been surprisingly successful in overcoming an unreasonable adverse public sentiment in several cases in which it has been tried. Not only can a company, prompted by honesty of purpose, win that good will upon which successful retention and operation so largely depend, but at the same time it. can materially promote business.
“The ill will that hampers a company in its plans is often due to ignorance, and can be changed to hearty support if the company will but take the public into its confidence.
(Continued on page 796)
(Continued from page 789)
“The average man of sufficient intelligence to contribute materially to make up public opinion is a reasonable being, and is willing to be shown. He does not expect the company to perform impossibilities, nor to operate without a fair profit. His favor is easily won and worth while. It is becoming recognized that a company has nothing to lose and very much to gain by a large measure of well planned publicity.
“Frank, straightforward statements of the aims, details and obstacles of operation result in a better understanding, not only of the company by the public, and also in a clearer knowledge of the public and its many needs by the company and its executive employees.”
The municipal water plant of Farmingdale, N. Y., is nowoperated by steam, the new equipment costing $14,000 having been installed. Previously gasoline was used for power.