Water News Network, San Diego County Water Authority
Nearly as many Americans today say they prefer getting their local news online as through local television according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey on American Trends. A majority of Americans surveyed by Pew trust niche news websites above general news sites for science and environment coverage. These shifting media consumption habits continue to accelerate. Organizations such as the San Diego County Water Authority serving the public must shift their communication strategy away from a reliance on shrinking media coverage to other methods to continue informing and educating its key target audiences.
Falcon Valley Group worked with the Water Authority public affairs team to develop the online news portal “Water News Network” (WNN) as a core element of an enhanced outreach program for communicating complex issues to civic leaders, elected officials, the business community and ratepayers. Since its founding, the primary objective of WNN has been to provide easy access to current, reliable, engaging content about vital water issues, supported by research and interviews and conveyed with traditionally sourced newswriting and photojournalism.
In partnership with Falcon Valley Group as a significant strategic and editorial contributor, WNN stories cover issues no longer routinely appearing in traditional news media due to a lack of resources and staff cutbacks. WNN generates significant original content, and also curates links to water-related stories by news media and trade media outlets daily.
Year-over-year page views and total site visitors show continued annual growth. Views generated through organic search have increased nearly 208%. In addition, social media posts with WNN content topped 1,803,633 impressions in FY 2019-20, generating more than 51,567 engagements. Daily opt-in e-newsletters featuring Water News Network headlines drive significant web traffic among stakeholders. Its open rate average is 19% with an impressive click-through rate to the website of 25%. The industry average open rate for governmental agencies is 6%.
WNN also acts as an external news media tip sheet. As WNN fills gaps in traditional news coverage, its independently produced stories are picked up by regional news media, including influential statewide industry trade media. This earned media coverage establishes the industry-wide expertise of the Water Authority and its member agencies and amplifies WNN’s efforts. Water News Network is viewed as a reliable source of factual information, upholding the standards of journalism to benefit the Water Authority, its 24 member agencies, its stakeholders, and citizens, and is a model for shifting communication strategies from earned media to owned media.