The items in this toolkit will give you many of the "raw materials" needed to begin communicating with a variety of different audiences about flood map changes in your area. However, the following tips will help ensure that your overall approach to community outreach is right on target. Keeping these tips in mind while using the toolkit materials will help make the rollout of new maps in your area a smooth - and successful - process.
- Start early...these things take time. Outreach activities should begin at least twelve months prior to the release of preliminary flood maps. This time frame allows for ample discovery; message creation, testing and refinement; and partnership development among key stakeholder groups. Getting started on outreach efforts as early as possible will allow you to identify and address key issues and obstacles and secure the broad-based support needed prior to a public announcement.
- The media will tell the tale - engage them. Local and regional media outlets will have an interest in this issue and will want to know how map changes will impact the average citizen. They will also be the first to applaud, or critique, the way the process is being handled. Providing the press with "access" and giving them good information in advance of the release of new maps will help to ensure that they have a complete picture - and a solid understanding - of the process. Holding media pre-briefings and making presentations to newspaper editorial boards prior to the release of new maps will allow reporters and editors to delve into key issues and ask important questions that will help them to cover the map release completely and accurately.
- Representatives from affected industries can carry your messages forward. Tap their input and influence. Representatives of the insurance, real estate, lending and building industries will all be impacted by the changes that new maps bring. They are also keenly aware of the messages and outreach approaches that will resonate with, and make a difference to, their colleagues. Keeping them updated about key developments in the adoption process, getting their feedback on materials and using them to disseminate information to their colleagues are all great ways to help ensure that the right messages are reaching the groups who will need them most.
- Key decision makers make key decisions - make sure they're on board! Local elected officials and county board members will, ultimately, be responsible for adopting ordinances that will make new flood maps official and effective throughout the area. They are also often the first to hear complaints from confused and concerned residents. Their ability to communicate key map change messages and foster a better understanding of the options available to residents and businesses will help to diffuse many potential problems. So, make sure officials clearly understand the map adoption process and recognize new maps as a positive step towards increased public safety - it will go a long way towards ensuring that preliminary maps are received positively.