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Promoting Advocacy

World Cement,

What is the mission of the Advocacy Team?

The vision is to build better communities and the mission is simply market development. We do this by making policy makers aware of the sustainable solutions concrete paving and resilient construction can provide to address the development issues that cities, counties and states face.

If you could summarise the requirements to be an advocate in one sentence, what would that sentence be?

The perfect advocate is someone who is passionate about concrete and the sustainable solutions it provides.

Your team is now three years old. Have you experienced any changes in the perception of concrete pavements in Florida? What are the lessons learned in your journey?

Perceptions are changing from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to cities such as Ft. Lauderdale, and everywhere in between. People are realising the sustainable benefits that concrete delivers and are starting to change policies that allow concrete to compete while providing the added benefit of environmental, economic and social solutions. What we have learned is that most people are simply not aware of the solutions concrete offers and, therefore, awareness is the first step. Once awareness is achieved, we walk through the solutions and show how this works in detail.

During the last three years you have developed a number of allies to help you promote your message. Who are some of these allies and how have they helped your cause?

Allies are the key to bringing concrete into the mainstream consciousness of the sustainable solution provider. We have collected a number of allies that find value in aligning with us and advocating for more sustainable roads. Trucking companies have started to see the benefits of demanding better pavement types rather than simply accepting the status quo and struggling with poor performing roads. We have also partnered up with many colleges and universities to help our research and outreach. Academia is number one and most important in this regard – organisations like MIT and FIU and designers such as MDX and FDOT, VDOT and 3P project teams. Other user groups, for instance trucking businesses such as CCC and transportation companies like UPS, all see the value in these ideas and assist in advocating for a change in the status quo, to look critically at existing processes and outcomes to find new and more sustainable ways to design and build our nation’s highways, roads, streets and intersections.

What are your biggest challenges?

Getting people to consider change. Regardless of what people say, we are creatures of habit and do not like or desire change. Our message is all about change, and painting the picture of what that change looks like and the benefits it will provide.

Tim Kuebler and Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, at the MIT/FIU joint Transportation Summit in 2013.

What is the most common misconception about the cement and concrete industry and how has your team been able to overcome such misconceptions?

A misconception is that the industry is a polluter due to the fact that we burn coal to make cement. We have overcome this by building on outreach and awareness. Once we are given a chance, we show the sustainable solutions we provide and most are in awe – they have never given it much thought. The facts are that concrete roads are highly sustainable and can provide fuel savings, result in lower CO2 emissions and create a safer environment for workers, drivers and others.

Which groups are more difficult to convince that concrete pavements are the sustainable choice?

The environmental groups that we reach out to in order to grow our ally base are the biggest hill to climb. They do not believe our story, regardless of the physical evidence.

What is your long-term vision for the Titan Advocacy team and how do you think that others can benefit from utilising a similar strategy?

Titan Advocacy will naturally progress into an overall value proposition for Titan America in line with the overall company strategy. Right now we produce, we sell, we advocate and we market – all separately. In the future we will have an aligned and integrated approach incorporating all disciplines to deliver value to our broadening view of who our customer really is. We will be growing markets where our product lines and operations are strategically organised. The unique value proposition will be the differentiator that allows our own company to be sustainable. We provide sustainable solutions that in turn make us a more sustainable company – we pay it forward. If other companies followed this philosophy it would create critical mass allowing for rapid change, which is necessary to reap rewards for everyone at a much faster pace.

What are the tools your team has used to promote its messages? Which are the most effective and which are not as effective?

We use social media, one-page flyers, face-to-face awareness meetings and ally engagement. The most effective so far have been the one-on-one meetings; however, in the future, ally engagement will be the most effective. When others are in alignment with our philosophy, and then make others aware of the value, it grows exponentially and we reach critical mass.

What advice would you give to those companies that want to invest in a dedicated advocacy team?

Begin with a philosophy and hire one or two people in a region where you want to give this idea a go. Put your best people on the project and measure its success. Then make sure that those who take on this role (a calling really) are moved up the organisation within two or three years. This does three things: firstly, your best people will want to do the job and excel at it; secondly, this will build a strong, efficient environment that encourages teamwork and camaraderie; and, finally, your organisation will be energised around a purpose that will result in efforts from both the mind and heart. This will create financial return far beyond the normal approach of simply paying people for work performed. They have a common purpose that reaches beyond profitability.

What do you see as our industry focus for the next couple of years in terms of advocacy message?

Sustainability remains the key message. However, in the future we will enhance our research on safety and demonstrate how concrete roads are safer, while monetising the inherent safety of concrete houses.

In light of the recent natural disasters in the US and around the world, resiliency is becoming more and more relevant. What are your efforts in this subject?

We are working on legislation that defines and incentivises resilient construction. Additionally, we raise awareness of the inherent resiliency of concrete construction, which can save homes, businesses and lives. We can get pretty creative about the awareness. One idea is to team up with insurance companies to help a federally declared disaster area rebuild resilient structures using our products. Another is to partner with allies and aligned industry associations to change building codes. Dumbed down codes and enforcement issues can put homes, businesses and lives in harm’s way. We are acting now to prevent this!

More information about Titan Advocacy’s work can be found via its social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

An interview with Tim Kuebler, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Titan America, USA. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the August 2014 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can view the full article by logging in.

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