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November 17, 2009
     
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Columns


NAWC’s newest employee, Jessica Knight, asks ‘Are you ready to get strategic!’

Jessica Knight

It seems like only yesterday I gathered my family and friends to proudly announce I was leaving my hometown of Greensboro, N.C., and heading to Washington, D.C., to “do something important.” Mouths dropped open around the table and my mother said, “Oh, good Lord.” I shared that I just accepted the position of Director of Strategic Relations for the National Association of Water Companies, and then I exploded into a variety of water-related statistics I read on Wikipedia.

Granted, I’d already been doing something “important” for the businesses and news organizations I’ve been lucky to call my clients for the 10 years after graduating journalism school from the University of South Carolina. Figuring out how to raise public awareness and change attitudes on a particular subject is by no means easy; while working at some of North Carolina’s most creative agencies, I championed winning B2B and B2C marketing and public relations campaigns for every industry under the sun including tourism, apparel, nonprofit, technology, financial services and education. I’ve promoted tagless T-shirts, written about window fashions, interviewed scuba equipment insurance policyholders, ghostwrote a trends blog for Ad Age, marketed computer software, and I’ve even spoken to Regis and Kelly about “Take Your Dog to Work Day.”

During my first week on the job at the National Drinking Water Symposium in Orlando, Fla., many attendees asked the same question that NAWC Executive Director Michael Deane posed during my initial interview: What do you know about the drinking water and wastewater business? My answer, then and now: I know nothing specific, except I know we all take it for granted. But I’m good at making people feel and do things. If you can teach me about water, I can help NAWC members form strong organizational and personal relationships with like-minded groups across the country.

Peers have often said that they can spot my signature on any project via three details: the storytelling quality of the writing, energetic ideas as non-traditional as they are strategic, and bottom line-oriented results. I’m going to need to call upon all three of those talents in my new position at the NAWC. My first charge will be gathering data from members and current water customers, all the way down to finding out what the general public knows about how the water decisions get made in their neck of the woods, and then, furthermore, articulating the unique value proposition of providing reliable water service to Americans via privately owned water utilities, and public-private partnership operators.

Like I said…I’ll be doing something important.

So with my townhouse pending sale, and my dusty boxes of vinyl records all moved into my new digs in the District, I’m ready to team up with my talented NAWC colleagues and member companies, to take on a national initiative more elemental, not to mention, infinitely harder than anything I’ve promoted to date – water.

I’m excited to get to work and appreciate the opportunity. Feel free to drop me a line and introduce yourself.