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Why is this work relevant for PR?

To get customers to change the way they use water, we needed to get the issue of water waste on the agenda.

With a heavy focus on influencers and good old fashioned local print media, Affinity Water got so many customers thinking about water waste that they’re now using 20 million litres less of it.

Every. Single. Day.

(That’ll mean over 7 BILLION extra litres in local streams every year)


Many people don’t realise that the water we all use at home comes from the same sources that feed our rivers and streams. Every litre that flows from a tap is a litre that would otherwise be in our waterways.

Climate change, less rainfall and a growing population are all threatening the future of South East England’s chalk streams, which are the country’s very own Great Barrier Reef (with chalk streams now globally rarer than the Bengal tiger).

To help give them a future, Affinity Water developed the SOS: Save Our Streams campaign to reduce water-use by never-before-seen levels.

Affinity Water asked its agency partners to amplify and execute the campaign to 1) make SOS: Save Our Streams locally famous, which will increase the salience of water wasting as an issue 2) change customer behaviour so they’ll use less water day-to-day.

Describe the creative idea

There’s a constant drumbeat of climate pessimism in the media, with the environment often framed as a huge and complex global system that’s impossible for individuals to change.

Qualitative interviews with customers told Affinity Water that scary environmental messages only made them paralysed with fear. But there was one thing in common that cut across the divisions of age, social background and culture war tribes. Customers might have different views about the economy, politics or social issues, but they all felt a deep need to protect the towns, villages and neighbourhoods where they and their families lived.

Our team realised we could reframe this from a global climate problem, to a local issue.

Instead of asking customers to ‘save the environment’ or ‘save the world’, we sent out an SOS to ask them to think smaller, and to look to their own neighbourhoods to Save Our Streams.

Describe the PR strategy

Based on insights from the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team (“The Nudge Unit”), SOS: Save Our Streams focused its behaviour change strategy on communicating two key messages to the target audience of “all 3.6m Affinity Water customers”:

- Key Message 1: Show the “Why“: Use media and influencers to elevate the salience and show local consequences of water wasting, creating the will amongst customers to change behaviour.

- Key Message 2: Explain the “How“: For years, the water industry has been asking people to take shorter showers and fix dripping taps, with minimal success. Instead, we directed customers to visit the campaign website and claim free water-saving devices, and used gamified challenges to make sure those devices were installed in homes.

Knowing that customers were already ignoring scary and earnest messages about saving the environment, we instead made our communications full of humour (after all, we’re not the fun police).

Describe the PR execution

In a campaign that launched in April 2021 and continued throughout the year, we relied heavily on relevant, often hyper-local, influencers and highly-localised media outreach to spread the message.

For the launch of the campaign, we teamed-up with some of the UK’s top comedians (including Sandi Toksvig and Mark Watson) to film Stand-Up For Our Streams, the first ever comedy event to be held and broadcast from within a local chalk stream.

The comedians wrote jokes about water-wasting especially for the show, which were then promoted on the brand’s social media channels. The comedians also posted from their own highly-followed accounts.

A ludicrously massive bathtub (125 times normal size) toured local towns to educate local politicians, journalists and over 390,000 customers about the importance of using less water.

OOH (May to August) and radio adverts (May to March) also made homeowners aware of their water wasting ways.

List the results

The big number: SOS drastically cut the amount of water being wasted in the region, leading to a staggering 20,250,000 litres of water saved every day. That’s the equivalent of over 7.3 BILLION(!) litres of water a year*.

As devices remain installed in customers’ homes, this will mean tens of billions of extra litres of water flowing through our local rivers and streams in the years ahead.

This all makes SOS the UK’s biggest water-saving campaign ever.

Earned (i.e. 100% unpaid) positive coverage was published by national media like The Guardian, The Times, the Daily Star, on television on BBC and ITV News, as well as popular morning show Good Morning Britain. This meant a total potential reach of over 4.8 million people, and all national coverage included at least one key message

But in all honesty, given our hyper-local message, most important was the masses of attention and message-heavy coverage in hyper-local media. This included titles like Hemel Today, the Bishop’s Stortford Independent, the Herts Advertiser and the Bucks Free Press.

The campaign was also covered by 41 influencers with a total estimated reach of 225,000.

All this new-found fame led to a jaw-dropping response:

- 210,000 water-saving devices requested by customers (target: 60,000)

- 190,000 customers going through a five-minute questionnaire to join our gamified water-saving app (target: 120,000)

- 85% of customers who’d seen the campaign said it made them change their behaviour†

Describe the effectiveness of the PR campaign

SOS: Save Our Streams was the UK’s biggest ever water-wasting campaign, persuading customers to reduce their water use by never-before-seen levels. It smashed every single pre-campaign target.

The campaign’s ultimate goal was to reduce water consumption, and it certainly delivered, with 20,250,000 litres of water saved every day. That’s the equivalent of over 7.3 BILLION litres of water a year*.

210,000 water-saving devices were requested by customers, beating our pre-campaign target of 60,000 by 250%.

190,000 customers also went through a five-minute questionnaire to join our gamified water-saving app, exceeding our pre-campaign target of 120,000 by 58%.

A staggering 85% of customers who’d seen the campaign also said it made them change their behaviour†

[Confidential] The campaign also had a significant impact on Affinity Water’s brand, with brand tracking data showing that SOS led to increases in Affinity Water’s brand awareness (+16%) and trust (+17%) scores ††

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