Umbrella campaign utilizes partnerships to amplify messaging across the state

by Heather Engel, APR, Director of Communications, Association of California Water Agencies

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is currently running a statewide public education campaign to raise awareness among Californians about the importance of investing in water infrastructure. The Quench California (QuenchCA) campaign was developed as a small-budget campaign with a large-budget target audience. Strategically structured as an umbrella campaign, it relies on outside partners to help disseminate information and amplify its messaging through the use of ready-made materials.

Attracting Partners

In order to attract partners across the state, ACWA launched a campaign within the campaign, targeted at ACWA’s 460 public water agency members. The goals are to build awareness of the QuenchCA campaign among members and explain how partnerships can benefit their agencies and make it easy for them to participate.

The awareness started when the campaign launch became the centerpiece of a welcoming address by ACWA’s president during our 2022 Spring Conference, which heightened its exciting potential directly to an audience of more than 1,000 water agency leaders whom we wanted to support the campaign. We continue the effort today with ongoing presentations at ACWA meetings and events, articles in the association newsletter, targeted emails and social media.

To ensure the agencies can benefit from the campaign, it was developed with broad messaging and customizable collateral materials. We developed a toolkit — based on input from a committee of communications professionals at member agencies — that includes sample social media posts and graphics sized for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, short social media animations, customizable newsletter articles, and an infographic explaining water infrastructure and a glossary of water terminology. We also provided the QuenchCA logo in various sizes and formats.

Many of the materials are customizable so partnering agencies can add their logo or incorporate the QuenchCA materials into their existing education and outreach efforts. Throughout the year, the toolkit has expanded to include four engaging videos, available in three lengths, with broad messaging to resonate in any community.


Next Phase of Partnerships

In February 2023, we launched an opportunity for agencies to financially partner with the campaign for customized digital advertising targeted directly to their communities.

We’ve also started reaching out to potential partners outside the ACWA community — such as other water industry associations, the business and labor community and others supportive of infrastructure investment — to encourage them to utilize the free campaign materials on social media to hopefully reach their unique audiences and drive them to the website.


Successes and Challenges

Evaluation is key to any campaign, including the internal effort to attract partners. While we know 24 agencies are actively and continually sharing content on social media, we unfortunately don’t know every instance that’s been shared, especially those in which the campaign hashtag wasn’t included. We also don’t know every instance in which an agency has used a sample newsletter article or posted the infographic on its website. As the paid partnerships roll out, we’ll be able to track the number of participants and how those digital ads boost the overall advertising and website analytics.

The campaign hasn’t been without struggles. For example, many member agencies were slow to partner with the campaign due to a lack of time and competing priorities, especially drought and conservation campaigns. We combatted this with increased awareness and focused on making it as easy as possible for members to participate. For example, during ACWA’s 2022 Fall Conference & Exhibition, we placed campaign signage on each table during meal functions with a QR code that brought up a social media graphic with icons to easily share at the moment on personal Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts.

While the effort to build partnerships has been time-consuming and with challenges, it’s a vital component for ensuring statewide dissemination of a campaign with limited advertising funds. CAPIO members charged with developing a campaign with limited funds can use a similar approach by reaching out to organizations and stakeholders in their community to help disseminate the campaign information.

For more information about the QuenchCA campaign, or to become a partner, visit

Heather Engel is the Director of Communications for the Association of California Water Agencies and a long-time CAPIO member. You can reach her at

Return to CAPIO Communicator