Environment: EA's insight on flood and drought survival

A widespread drought in the first few months of 2012 resulted in hosepipe bans for more than 20 million people. Then the wettest April on record led to extensive flooding across England and Wales. The Environment Agency (EA) was faced with the comms challenge of explaining how drought and flood can occur simultaneously, while driving behaviour change and retaining the confidence of target audiences.

EA: A team sets to work lowering water levels
EA: A team sets to work lowering water levels

Campaign: Managing the Great British Weather
Client: Environment Agency
PR team: In-house (national media team)
Timescale: November 2011-July 2012
Budget: Within existing staff costs



  •  To increase the number of people checking their flood risk and signing up to the EA's flood warning service
  • To encourage homeowners and businesses to reduce their water use
  • To ensure that 70 per cent of media coverage contained a call to action
  • To ensure that at least 85 per cent of media coverage was considered to be beneficial or factual.

Strategy and plan

The EA media team targeted key audiences including consumers, farmers, businesses, water companies, the Government and local authorities.

During the drought, the team brought together communication teams representing water companies, farmers, the Government and NGOs to deliver consistent media messages and calls to action.

It also sought to shape the news agenda by holding weekly drought briefings.

When the floods hit, the team syndicated flood warnings, briefings and interviews through social and national media, helping communities to prepare while promoting the work the EA was doing to reduce the risk of flooding.

It also secured in-depth features across key media including The Sunday Telegraph and ITV Tonight about how people and businesses could protect themselves from the floods.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated more than 1,300 pieces of national media coverage, including front pages in various national titles and double-page spreads in The Independent and The Daily Telegraph.

Widespread broadcast coverage included the BBC's The One Show, Inside Out and Countryfile.


An additional 17,000 properties signed up for flood warnings as a result of media coverage. More than 99 per cent of coverage was viewed as positive or factual and 96 per cent of stories contained at least one call to action. The EA website had more than 200,000 hits, while the EA's Twitter followers and Flickr views doubled in a year. The hashtag #floodaware was created and used more than 3,100 times.

According to a Thames Water survey, almost 90 per cent of people said they took steps to save water during the drought and 72 per cent said they had a good understanding of why there was still a serious water shortage despite the heavy rain. The EA was cited in the survey as the most trusted source of drought information.

The then environment secretary Caroline Spelman praised the media coverage for helping to drive behaviour change.




Alongside such British passions as tea, football and house prices, the weather must surely be one of the most PR-able issues.

Nonetheless, in this campaign, the PR team did a workmanlike job of getting people talking and thinking about how the weather affects them and how they can protect themselves.

This is a textbook example of cascading information via collaborative partnerships with special interest groups. Likewise, the weekly media briefings and development of in-depth features have clearly been effective.

Social media interaction is solid, but these days perhaps the bar could have been set even higher. Government bodies such as the Environment Agency are sitting on a vast treasure trove of valuable data.

With the right technical know-how this has great potential for application programming interfaces (APIs)and live streamed data visualisations. These are much in demand and can open up a continuous flow of digital media coverage and positive interaction with the public.

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