alwen reservoir.jpg

The water industry is a fascinating one, providing vital services to us all and boasting some of the finest engineering brains and teams dedicated to protecting the environment. Communicating this work is rich in opportunity, as this new case study shows…

by Victoria Ford

Eighteen months ago Welsh Water was a company that made water come out of my taps and made sure the toilet flushed when I needed it to.  I didn’t give it any more though than that.  I certainly didn’t think of it from a comms perspective and it was never on my radar from a professional perspective.

Fast forward eighteen months and as I come to the end of my time working with Welsh Water I look at the water industry in a whole new light.  I have been privileged to both deliver comms for Welsh Water, and loved running an Escape Room to help embed the behaviour change needed as they moved to GDPR compliance, and work with the communications team as they reposition themselves to support the company as it moves into the next stage of their customer focused strategy. 

As a communications professional with a passion for transformation, change and internal communications, here are 5 things I’ve learnt along the way:

1.  There’s much more to Welsh Water than just water out of taps and flushing toilets.  Although obviously those are really important.  With roles from front line customer service through to chemists working in labs, understanding your audience and delivering comms tailored to meet their needs is critical.  The internal communications team here at Welsh Water has recognised the shift needed to open up new channels, encourage two way communications that give all colleagues a voice and create a culture of innovation and customer focus. 

2.  A clear vision. Welsh Water has a very clear company vision, to earn the trust of customers every day.  Every colleague in Welsh Water has a role to play in achieving this vision and for the comms team it forms the backbone of everything they do.  Their award winning brand builder campaigns have seen them develop an external marketing campaign using channels from television and radio to social media and stakeholder engagement.  Evaluation is now at the forefront for the team in Welsh Water and this campaign has seen a rise in customer trust of 10% over the last 2 years.

3.  Community engagement is key.  With investment schemes worth over £1.5bn, work is taking place across Wales to improve water quality, protect assets from dams and sewers to reservoirs and wastewater treatment centres and address environmental challenges such as flood risks and maintaining the blue flag status of our beautiful beaches.   The team works with local communities and political and community stakeholders to help raise the profile of works that may affect them.  Getting underneath what is important to customers and their communities is a priority for the comms team and their community communication officers work across regions to support the work of the development teams.

4.  It definitely isn’t just about sending out stuff.   As the business transforms to position itself to exploit the opportunities digital brings and to better understand how they meet their customers’ needs both now and in the future, so the comms team has had to transform.   The team has recently restructured and refocused to ensure that all its activities align to supporting company objectives. Victims of their own success, the team in Welsh Water is in demand, but they have used this to work alongside stakeholders in the business to start building communication campaigns with clear objectives, an understanding of audiences, innovative implementation and evaluation threaded through everything they do.   The team are constantly learning and supporting each other to deliver differently every day.

5. ‘For Wales, not for profit’ – Welsh Water’s unique not for profit status has created a culture that brings colleagues together to create services that work and drives innovation.  The comms team is no exception and the ability to try new things and push boundaries is helping shape their communications and ways of working.  There’s a sense of pride and a sense of fun that I’ve seen in the comms team and beyond making it a challenging and rewarding place to work.

So thank you Welsh Water, it’s been a pleasure learning from you and I’ll never take turning on a tap for granted again!

Victoria Ford is director of Perago-Wales – you can connect with her on Twitter at @torfordy

Image via Stuart Madden

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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