TROU­BLED WATERS

While Auck­land’s beaches and har­bours may look pris­tine, this isn’t al­ways the case as con­tam­i­nants can make their way into the wa­ter. So, Auck­land Coun­cil launched a clever ini­tia­tive to keep swim­mers safe and in­formed.

New Zealand Marketing - - The Radio Bureau -

The Chal­lenge

Auck­land is home to three beau­ti­ful har­bours and many beaches, en­joyed by lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike. It's Auck­land Coun­cil’s job to en­sure they are able to en­joy the nat­u­ral as­sets of their city while stay­ing safe. Most of the time, Auck­land’s beaches and har­bours are clean, but when it rains, stormwa­ter can get into the waste­water net­work, which causes sewage sys­tems to over­flow. This, com­bined with other sources of con­tam­i­nates, can of­ten make the beach un­safe for swim­ming. Con­tam­i­nated wa­ter can be laden with bac­te­ria such as e-coli and cryp­tosporid­ium that can cause gas­troen­teri­tis, res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses and ear, eye and skin in­fec­tions. It was im­por­tant for the coun­cil to get across to the public the health risk of swim­ming at con­tam­i­nated beaches, de­spite the fact the in­for­ma­tion may not have been pop­u­lar with Auck­land res­i­dents who en­joy the beach. The coun­cil’s biggest chal­lenge was to ed­u­cate Auck­lan­ders about the wa­ter qual­ity in an ap­peal­ing way, al­low­ing them to make in­formed de­ci­sions about their lives. It also wanted to po­si­tion Auck­land Coun­cil as a leader in the area of beach wa­ter mon­i­tor­ing and show trans­parency by ac­knowl­edg­ing the re­gion had a wa­ter qual­ity is­sue and that it was de­ter­mined to do some­thing about it.

The Re­sponse

In Novem­ber 2017, the coun­cil launched Safeswim, a new and im­proved wa­ter qual­ity re­port­ing pro­gramme. It al­lowed the public to ob­tain real-time wa­ter fore­casts for 84 beaches and eight fresh­wa­ter sites around Auck­land from the pro­gramme's ded­i­cated web­site. Although the pro­gramme had been around for a num­ber of years, in 2017 it was re­vamped from a once-a week mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme to a real-time fore­cast­ing model. Real-time weather, tide and waste wa­ter sys­tem data was fed into the model in or­der to pre­dict cur­rent and fu­ture wa­ter qual­ity. The Safeswim risk cat­e­gories re­flected the amount of bac­te­ria in the wa­ter. Green in­di­cated it was safe to swim, while red in­di­cated it was un­safe. There was also a mid­dle-ground where safety lev­els were not al­ways clear, where an in­crease in the lev­els of bac­te­ria were low enough for a healthy per­son to swim with­out sig­nif­i­cant risk of ill­ness. The cam­paign was kicked off with a funny video ex­plain­ing Safeswim and the im­por­tance of check­ing wa­ter qual­ity be­fore swim­ming. It also con­sisted of me­dia brief­ings, multi-me­dia con­tent, ra­dio and dig­i­tal dis­play ad­ver­tis­ing and so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing to reach a broad range of com­mu­ni­ties. Paid me­dia was bol­stered dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­day pe­riod and long week­ends to en­sure reach at a time when the public was most likely to be at the beach and swim­ming. The cam­paign col­lat­eral used an easy-to-un­der­stand graphic de­vice (sim­i­lar to for­est fire dan­ger lev­els signs) to in­di­cate what the alert lev­els meant. Risks were cat­e­gorised as ‘Low Risk’, ‘Fair’ and ‘Alert’. This pro­vided an easy to un­der­stand de­vice and an­swer to ‘Do I swim or not?’.

The Re­sult

The cam­paign did what the coun­cil hoped, ef­fec­tively rais­ing aware­ness about wa­ter qual­ity at Auck­land beaches. Within three months of the cam­paign launch, the Safeswim web­site had reached 141,000 unique users and 280,000 hits, ex­ceed­ing its tar­get of 100,000 hits. There was high aware­ness of the pro­gramme and by the end of the 2017/2018 swim­ming sea­son, around half of all beach go­ers in Auck­land knew about Safeswim. The so­cial cam­paign also did well, re­sult­ing in 1.6 mil­lion im­pres­sions with al­most 15,000 clicks. Fur­ther, there was also me­dia in­ter­est in Safeswim, with it be­ing re­ported on ev­ery week across lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional print me­dia. Be­tween Novem­ber 2017 to Fe­bru­ary 2018, 106 ar­ti­cles fea­tured wa­ter qual­ity and 75 per­cent of those ar­ti­cles men­tioned Safeswim. A story on Safeswim even be­came the third most-read ar­ti­cle on The Guardian on­line for its ‘poo-tracker’ story.

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