5 reputation-building tips from DC Water

Like Flint, Michigan, our nation’s capital had its own lead-tainted water crisis in the 2000s. Its utility learned that rebuilding your good name is a long-term battle starting with transparency.

Crisis communications tend to address the immediate: monitoring social media, fielding reporters’ phone calls, sending executives out to face the firing squad of a hostile press conference.

What gets less attention is the long slog to rebuild a reputation after a crisis that initiates lawsuits, a media pummeling and congressional hearings.

Just ask DC Water, which provides Washington, D.C., with drinking water and wastewater treatment. Twelve years after lead contamination in the capital’s taps made national news, a similar crisis in Flint, Michigan, is bringing attention to DC Water’s long-term effort to restore its reputation.

“We’re still working to rebuild the trust of our customers and earn back the trust that we lost during our own lead crisis,” says John Lisle, DC Water’s chief of external affairs.

Underscoring that, national journalists with the memory of elephants have been phoning DC Water lately to add quotes to stories about Flint’s crisis.

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