Bridge Over Troubled Water
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Holmes Report
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Bridge Over Troubled Water

After learning about Butterfield’s tap water problem, PUR and Carmichael Lynch Spong orchestrated a community-wide goodwill product donation and water quality education effort.

Paul Holmes

When residents of Butterfield, Minn. (population 565) turn on their taps, the water comes out looking like tomato juice, smelling like rotten eggs and tasting so bad that no one will drink it.
 
It’s been that way for as long as townspeople can remember.  But not anymore.
 
After learning about Butterfield’s tap water problem, PUR – a leading manufacturer of effective and easy-to-use water filters – and Carmichael Lynch Spong (CLS) orchestrated a community-wide goodwill product donation and water quality education effort.
 
The Butterfield experience now serves as the PUR model for future goodwill community outreach programs.
 
RESEARCH
 
A combination of primary and secondary research was used to help identify communities with “gross” drinking water and ensure that outreach efforts would be well-received by local townspeople and area news media:
 
Secondary
  • Reviewed client research on consumer attitudes and perceptions about tap water safety issues
  • Monitored daily news reports to uncover communities with tap water problems
  • Analyzed hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality reports
 
Primary
  • Tested different PUR water filters to discover which one worked best to solve the problem
  • Scouted the community to determine a location for the donation and education effort
 
Key Learnings
  • Most people believe their tap water is safe to drink – “it’s someone else’s problem”
  • It takes a “catalytic moment” for people to rethink the quality of their own drinking water
  • Aesthetic drinking water issues—such as taste and odor—are key drivers for water filter consideration and purchase
 
PLANNING
 
Objective: Build community goodwill for the PUR brand while educating residents and neighboring communities about the importance of quality drinking water
 
Target Audience
  • Primary:  Residents of communities who are dealing with “gross” drinking water on a daily basis.  Most likely, they have resorted to drinking bottled water or simply avoid drinking water altogether
  • Secondary:  Residents of surrounding communities who may or may not experience similar problems with their drinking water
 
LIMITATIONS/CHALLENGES
 
  • Struggled to find communities that fit the profile for PUR donation and education efforts
  • Met initial resistance from city officials who “denied” they had a drinking water problem
  • Discovered that certain PUR filters clogged up when drinking water contained high levels of sediment
 
STRATEGIES
 
  • Orchestrate grassroots product donation and education goodwill effort
  • Involve local and regional news media and community leaders throughout the process
  • Create a turnkey model to implement in other identified outreach communities
 
EXECUTION
 
Strategy 1: Orchestrate grassroots product donation and education goodwill effort
  • Contacted mayor, city officials and vocal residents about PUR’s interest in making a community-wide donation
  • Arranged PUR product distribution and education event at Butterfield City Hall
  • Educated residents about the importance of water quality during donation effort
  • Coordinated media interviews with local officials, residents and PUR spokespeople
 
Strategy 2: Involve local and regional news media and community leaders throughout the process
  • Reviewed prior news coverage and contacted reporters about the community’s tap water problems
  • Sent PUR engineers to Butterfield to test various water filters in the homes of local opinion leaders
  • Provided “test” water filters to city officials and the owner of Pixie’s Place (Butterfield’s only restaurant)
  • Identified several homes and businesses to install water filters for immediate photo opportunities
 
Strategy 3: Create a turnkey outreach model to implement in other communities
  • Defined a tight community profile and criteria for future outreach efforts
  • Drafted template public service announcements (PSA), news alerts and releases for ready-to-go media relations efforts
  • Developed a general Q&A and media training session to prep on-site PUR spokespeople
  • Created a letter to residents with simple product directions and usage tips
  • Identified Seelyville, Ind. (population 1,100) for an additional PUR donation and education effort
 
EVALUATION
 
Objective:  Build community goodwill for the PUR brand while educating residents and neighboring communities about the importance of quality drinking water
 
Butterfield, Minn.
  • Distributed free water filters to 300 Butterfield residents who lined up at City Hall
  • Aired multiple radio PSAs prior to the donation and education effort
  • Achieved more than 4.6 million gross impressions with “hits” in local, Mankato and Twin Cities news markets
  • Received a personal “thank you” letter from the mayor on behalf of the city of Butterfield
  • Contributed to a 65% spike in Mankato and Minneapolis area category development index (CDI) versus one year ago
  • Conducted entire outreach effort for less than three cents per impression
 
Seelyville, Ind.
  • Distibuted free water filters to 1,200 residents served by the Seelyville Waterworks system
  • Achieved more than 1.7 million gross impressions with “hits” in local, Terre Haute and Indianapolis news markets
  • Helped spur state compliance orders against Seelyville Waterworks on behalf of local residents
  • Rallied local volunteers to hand deliver hundreds of community fliers publicizing the PUR donation effort
  • Conducted entire outreach effort for less than six cents per impression
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