PHAI communications successful: Herod
When awareness of the work of the Port Hope Area Initiative has doubled over the past year, as verified by a recent survey, manager of stakeholder relations and communications Judy Herod says she is puzzled that home owners can still be surprised when project work is carried out on their properties.
One high-profile home owner, Councillor David Turck, was one of those surprised. Turck mentioned at last week’s meeting of Port Hope Council that he woke up one morning to find the work going on and, only after talking to a worker, learned it was a survey-location component of the PHAI gamma-monitoring project.
Herod says she dug into her files and produced records of two calls to the Turck home, both of which were answered by a person in the household.
A Dec. 6 call informed the family of the planned work, but cautioned that adverse weather might delay it into the new year — which it did.
A call the week of Jan. 7 reminded the family that the work was planned and would proceed over the next week or so.
"Schedulers spoke to someone in that household on two different occasions about this particular work," Herod reiterated.
"I do have the script on what the schedulers say, and we do tell them what's going to happen — not just that we are coming. It was explained that it would be sewer locates.
"I just wanted to say how very active communications have been, how committed we are and how successful it has been. We give people a lot of information. We believe residents have a right and should be kept well informed. We are committed to doing that, we are doing that, and we are seeing the success of doing it."
Herod cited the doubling in general awareness, as ascertained by the survey, as proof of their success.
"What I believe is, if people have a general awareness, it's not a surprise when we ask for the consent forms or start to schedule work. They are aware and understand what's going on. They understand it's a benefit to them, and a benefit to the community."
Herod was proud to state that the property radiological survey has paved the way for success by garnering more than 90% participation, and said communication is a key component.
She estimates PHAI people will be knocking on 5,000 doors up to six times, for example.
"The things we are doing to communicate — the advertising, the personal letters, the website, having a person here dedicated to answer questions, because that often means more than just a letter — we are doing it all," she said.
"The municipality does know this, because we do share what we do with them."
Another key component is the scheduling, which is done by telephone because that's a more immediate way of sharing the information than fliers. Their schedulers go out of their way to stay in touch with home owners while accommodating people's schedules, working around such considerations as job shifts and trips to Florida.
"People have busy lives, but they need to be kept informed and be respected," Herod said.
In the new year, they sandwich-board signs will be set up in neighbourhoods with the message that the PHAI is working here this week as a reminder.
"It's a huge community effort," Herod declared.
"I want to stress we take keeping this community and the residents who are involved in this survey informed very, very seriously, and we are succeeding.
"The awareness statistics show communications efforts are effective. Even when scheduling has to be delayed or an appointment has to be delayed, they phone back.
"We want to keep people informed, and we keep trying to make it better."