Water Hub Blog

5 takeaways: Testing water infrastructure and jobs messages

Illustration of tree saplings being hand watered. Text: #WaterAtWork.

If you feel like we’ve been talking about infrastructure forever, you’re not alone. Last month, the U.S. House marked up the latest budget bill, including billions in funding for drinking water and sewer system updates, lead pipe replacement, and low-income water bill assistance.

It’s a step in the right direction, but even combined with the Senate infrastructure bill passed in August, we need more investment and implementation rooted in environmental justice — and Congress still has to pass the bill(s). The destruction of Hurricane Ida in the Gulf and Northeast make it clear how vulnerable our infrastructure is to climate disruption and the urgent need to act. In the wake of this latest storm, leaders in the Gulf are calling on us all to choose love and abundance, and invest in the communities most impacted with sustainable solutions.

These are all themes we worked to infuse in our digital #WaterAtWork campaign highlighting the many ways investing in water benefits the economy, workers, and communities. We wanted to focus on solutions, illustrating how water solutions are climate solutions, how investing in workers is key to climate and economic justice, and inspire decision-makers not to miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvest in critical water systems.

Since we launched the microsite and digital campaign at the end of May 2021, we’ve seen over 300,000 impressions of the #WaterAtWork hashtag on social media. And last month, we partnered with Energy Media to integrate our water-jobs messages and visuals into an existing paid ad push touting the jobs benefits of investing in climate solutions. 

Image: sample digital ads from the campaign. Text: Water infrastructure jobs pay well and support families. It's time to reinvest in our aging water systems and create family-wage jobs.  With image of two construction workers replacing water pipes.

These were the most engaging message and imagery combinations from the test.

What did we learn?

  • All in all, our ads got more than 60,000 impressions on Facebook and Instagram targeting two key audiences: decision-makers and on-the-fence voters, or “purple” audiences. By drawing on insights from previous campaigns, we were able to craft messages we hoped would resonate with our targets and used digital advertising to test these assumptions.
  • The decision-maker audience engaged the most with messages that focused on how investing in water infrastructure will create good-paying jobs that support families. We quantified engagement by measuring the impressions, clicks, reactions, shares and comments of each ad.
  • The second-best performing messages spelled out what jobs are created when we invest in water. From updating old lead pipes to replacing pavement with plants, the “purple” audience engaged most with this content.
  • Photos of water workers in action, like replacing lead pipes, and the end-result of water jobs, like an installed garden that captures rain, led the pack as most popular imagery.
  • Message testing can provide valuable insights! By doing an initial round of ads and testing different messages, we were able to target key stakeholders while learning what resonated most. Now, we will be doubling down on the images and messages that worked best in a second round of ads throughout October.

The urgency to pass critical water infrastructure investments remains, so please spread the word! In addition to sharable illustrations, the #WaterAtWork site includes a downloadable infographic and social media toolkit with video.

Have an idea for how these materials can support your work? Get in touch! We’re happy to strategize and customize the campaign to help tell your story. You can reach us via email or sign-up for our monthly-ish newsletter.