World Health Organisation (WHO)

Releasing the WHO Drowning Prevention Report

We were approached by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to release the 2014 WHO Drowning Prevention Report, and create awareness of the devastating impact of drowning in developing countries. With more than 40 people drowning every hour of every day around the world, there was an urgent need to up-scale the efforts and resources by both national policy-makers and local communities to prevent drowning in our country.

The release of the report occurred in November 2014, just prior to the festive season, when South African’s traditionally go on leave to enjoy the good weather and spend time at the coast, often near bodies of water. The timing presented us with an opportunity as the content of the report was extremely relevant to our local market.

We identified that drowning is a serious and neglected public health issue with more than 90% of deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. By extrapolating local data and understanding the drowning issues facing local communities, we were able to highlight key points and report findings that correlated with the South African market.

One of the challenges experienced was that the global report did not contain country-specific information but rather focused on a regional view. We needed to adapt its approach to ensure that the packaging of the content was relevant to the local media pool. Also, the WHO Spokespeople were foreign and so had to be thoroughly briefed before any local interviews to ensure they had a firm grasp of South Africa’s public health and safety infrastructure around drowning.

We contacted local print, online and broadcast health and general news journalists ahead of the report release to understand specific focus areas and stances on the topic of drowning. This allowed us to identify the top-tier media outlets and journalists which would ensure the broadest possible reach to communicate the message and to ensure the deepest penetration of the report results and preventative measures outlined therein. Three days prior to the release of the report a media alert was sent out to all journalists 3 days prior to prompt them to reserve space and be aware that the results were about to be announced. We then set to work offering select key media interviews with the WHO Spokespeople for the day of the report release. Once we had secured our top two broadcast interviews, we managed the other interview requests via email with the spokespeople.

On the day, we distributed media announcement to targeted journalists in accordance with global embargo. FH also granted access to password-protected site for journalists to access additional information. It was an extremely intense 48 hours.

The WHO requested daily updates as to coverage so the report was managed very firmly. We were provided with a template to populate and worked according to this. Metrics were measured very tightly and Client kept referring back to the objectives initially set to achieve.

We exceeded all expectations relating to this project:

TIMING: We managed to secure the majority of the WHO Report coverage and only a handful of titles picked up the story from international news wires. These were not included in our coverage. As stipulated, the resulting press coverage had to appear in early December in order to ensure the deepest penetration of messaging prior to the festive season. This was achieved and for a long time after, we continued to seed the report to media who requested information around drowning prevention.
AUDIENCE: In excess of 3 million South African citizens were reached via the coverage received, with our key audiences being reached through parenting media, radio interviews and daily newspapers concentrated in coastal regions.
MESSAGING: 100% of our key messaging appeared in the coverage. Interestingly most media chose to run with the fact that the highest rates for drowning are among children under 5 years. 95% of the coverage appeared in tier 1 media outlets with the majority on national and regional platforms.

WHO Drowning Report