Communications About Flint's Water

WashWithLeadFlint, Michigan, is battling issues about contaminated water from aging lead pipes. Messages from the governor's office reveal conflicting strategies for dealing with the situation.Flint_emails_web_012116

The "Flint Water" page of the Department of Environmental Quality shows a short statement from Governor Rick Snyder: "We are working closely with Genesee County and the Flint community, taking actions to immediately improve the water situation in Flint. Currently, we are focused on water testing, lead testing for children, and ensuring every home has water filters. We are also at work on long-term solutions, including follow-up care for affected residents." Before this statement, the site had a graphic claiming that the water was safe for bathing (shown here); it has since been removed. Now, an extensive list of resources appears under "Contamination Investigation."

The governor has released 274 pages of emails related to the investigation; some show officials debating responsibility for the problems.

As the controversy continues, Governor Snyder is actively communicating. On Twitter, as @onetoughnerd (!), Snyder is posting updates and links to videos and audio "townhall" calls. In the description of his State of the State address on YouTube, Snyder posted this message:

On Tuesday Jan. 19, Governor Snyder delivered a very different State of the State address.

He focused on Flint, a proud city in which residents are unable to drink the water that comes into their homes.

He acknowledged that this is unacceptable. It's a problem that we will fix, and fix quickly.

He spoke directly to the people of Flint, but also to everyone in our state and people across the country.

Discussion Starters:

  • What are the governor's communication objectives at this point? Identify three or four for the public as his primary audience. 
  • Assess his recent messages. How well is he meeting these objectives?
  • What's your view of his Twitter handle?